Qatar’s issues have been ongoing for 20 years
Qatar allied with Saudi Arabia’s rivals: Iran, Syria and Hezbollah
What’s new in the Gulf dispute with Qatar this time is the collective punishment applied by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain when they decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha.
The drama with Qatar is long-winded and has been ongoing for about 20 years now. Qatar is a source of disturbance and trouble.
Before I draw an image of what’s happening, I want to summarize this in one sentence; the motives of Qatari quarrels are mostly Qatar’s only and not necessarily a scheme directed against anyone. This time the Qatari citizen finds himself in a very embarrassing situation. The same goes for the new government that wants to assert itself using the language of the new generation.
I remember that the first dispute Qatar stirred up was during the GCC summit in Doha in 1990. I was with a large group of journalists standing at the door of the conference hall. When the door was opened, the Saudi delegation headed by King Fahd – may he rest in peace - walked out and the king appeared upset.
We immediately found out that Qatar’s former Emir, Sheikh Khalifa, insisted on discussing only the issue of disputed islands with Bahrain and rejected the king’s demand to dedicate the conference to discussing the four-month occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.
The emir only agreed to this demand after the heads of Gulf delegations threatened to walk out of the conference. Six years later, Qatar dedicated its new channel to attack Saudi Arabia for years.
It supported the rhetoric of extremism and the marketing of al-Qaeda’s leaders and ideas including the call to expel the “polytheist American forces” from the land of the Arabian peninsula - that being Saudi Arabia. A day after the American forces Saudi Arabia, Qatar announced it welcomed them and built two military bases for the U.S. Army: Al Udeid Air Base
And Saliyah Army Base. Then it stopped talking about them.
Was this phase part of building the leadership character and seeking status? Perhaps it was.
During the second decade, Qatar allied with Saudi Arabia’s rivals: Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Even after their horrible crimes such as assassinating Rafiq al-Hariri in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s occupation of West Beirut, the Qatari leadership continued to finance the activity of this axis. Later there was the alliance with Libya’s madman leader Muammar Qaddafi.
All of this lasted until the Arab Spring erupted. Now as Qatar’s leadership suddenly changed, escalation increased to support domestic groups that threaten countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and that threaten both Sunnis and Shiites and leftists and religious groups!
In its attempt to hijack revolutions, Qatar suffered massive political and financial losses in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen as parties it invested in did not seize authority in these countries. This is why Qatar altered its policy and began to finance the civil and armed opposition. The most dangerous Qatari adventure is its persistence in funding the Muslim Brotherhood and their group against the new regime in Egypt. Even with three television channels, Qatar could not shake the Egyptians’ support of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime!
Qatar, which previously lost and squandered billions by supporting the Assad regime and Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia, is repeating the same scenario in Egypt using money, ads, international relations’ companies and lawyers in order to support the Brotherhood which will never win in Egypt because the military institution there is stronger. Qatar is thus only capable of disturbing the Egyptians.
One of them told me that they consider what’s happening a chess game. I replied that it’s more of a video game where you gain nothing and learn nothing.
The question is, will the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini decisions distress Qatar? No, I don’t think so because just like other oil-rich Gulf countries, it doesn’t count on tourism or trade.
Withdrawing ambassadors remains a political move that expresses the rejection of sowing chaos and announces that the Qatari people are innocent of what their leadership is doing. The Gulf has been known as a beacon of stability and development, and it’s others who are well-known for stirring chaos.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat, March 6, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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