Many have noticed the unjustified excessive sensitivity of the Qatari command which suffers from a complexity with Saudi Arabia because it (Qatar) is a small country, and with the United Arab Emirates because of its international success and presence.
Before the rivalry and before ties were cut with Doha on June 5, 2017, Qatar viewed the UAE as its competitor in Riyadh, the capital of its bigger neighbor. It tried to have Saudi Arabia for itself, which it sees as a sleeping elephant and it tried to ascend on this internationally and regionally significant elephant but it failed. Doha continued to play the role of the competitor when dealing with others and tried to impose its projects which are bigger than its capabilities, such as attempting to change the regime in Egypt.
Doha did not and will not succeed in sabotaging relations between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi because it is based on substantial respect between the two partiesAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Good relations between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi
Tensions and disputes dominated ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia during the eras of three Saudi kings. Contrary to that, and in the matter of rapprochement with Riyadh, we noticed that Abu Dhabi adopted the approach of partnership in almost all fields and avoided disputes.
Relations remained smooth between them even when it came to matters which may not necessarily be agreed upon, like Saudi Arabia’s desire back then to turn the Gulf Cooperation Council into a union. Abu Dhabi was not convinced of this idea but it did not fight it.
During the year of major unrest, the Arab Spring in 2011, they highly coordinated together to shield Bahrain from the movement in support of Iran which had called for the toppling of the Bahraini regime. While Qatar played an obstructive and negative role, Saudi Arabia believed Bahrain’s security was part of its security and the UAE supported it. The two countries cooperated to save Bahrain, and they succeeded.
In terms of Yemen, Qatar played a militarily and politically positive role at the beginning, just like the UAE, but the Qataris found that their role was limited which reflects the limitations of their military participation.
In Syria, the UAE kept away from the crisis on the military level and let Riyadh and Doha work together. However, Qatar insisted on imposing its groups, most of which are terrorist or ideological Islamic ones, on the rest of the Syrian national powers. Riyadh stood against this. In the end, the world saw how these extremist groups corrupted the Syrian cause.
Qatar at the center of controversy
The Emiratis were not a rivaling party in any of these crises. On the Saudi domestic level, Abu Dhabi was known to not be involved in any activities alongside a group or party with controversial tendencies. Meanwhile, Qatar has never stopped supporting all categories that either frankly oppose the state or have different orientations, whether inside or outside the kingdom.
This is one of the reasons ties have tensed between Riyadh and Doha for many years. It’s normal for Qatar to lose given such morals and practices that compete with Riyadh, and it’s normal for relations to reach the phase of rupture.
Qatar did not understand, or did not desire to understand, that what changed is not Abu Dhabi’s engagement but the rise of a new command in Riyadh that manages crises differently. Previous Saudi commands handled Qatar’s interferences in a traditional way by ignoring the crisis and keeping silent until the crisis worsened. The approach strategically and tacitly changed, including building efficient alliances.
As a result, hysteria reigned in Doha which began to launch different campaigns thinking that it will succeed in achieving one of the following: either getting Riyadh out of the alliance with Egypt, UAE and Bahrain, or weakening Riyadh and its alliance in the major battles in Yemen or involve foreign powers, particularly the US, to deter Riyadh’s alliance. To dismantle the alliance, the Qatari media machine played a skeptical tune questioning Abu Dhabi’s intentions against Riyadh in Yemen, the US and inside the UAE itself.
However, all what was written and said was merely part of a provocation press. Qatar continued to raise suspicions about Abu Dhabi in hopes of sabotaging the close ties, including those in the media field, but failed in finding any hostile Emirati activity against Saudi Arabia. Truth is actually the opposite of Doha’s allegations as the UAE entrusted Saudi competent journalists to manage its media facilities and not the opposite.
Doha did not and will not succeed in sabotaging relations between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi because it is based on substantial respect between the two parties and it makes a huge difference as they complete each other as the two largest powers in the GCC.
Qatar does not only suffer from a bad reputation, but has a bad record in all fields with Saudi Arabia. And in all honesty, I pity our brothers in Qatar because they’re fighting “soap battles.” These bubbles will not increase Doha’s value and will not help it make political gains. Doha will realize, whether today or tomorrow, that things across borders have changed and that going back to playing is a dangerous adventure for Qatar itself.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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. He tweets @aalrashed.