Has boycott of Qatar failed?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Recently published articles marking the first year since the boycott of Qatar have glorified Qatar’s steadfastness and success as part of a public relations campaign. It is clear that Qatar has not stopped its attempts, with all means at its command, to restore relations; however, it has not succeeded.

A propaganda report said Qatar has enough to withstand the “blockade” for 100 years and that the four boycotting countries will not be able to harm Qatari economy and the government’s capabilities.

Since Qatar has not been affected and it does not care, then why does it make this effort to convince official American institutions to intervene to end the severance of ties? Why is it running in all directions and calling on others to intervene and force the four countries to restore ties with it?

The four countries are well aware of these two points that are very clear: Qatar is a small market and a large bank. This means that Qatar can through its abundant funds provide the needs of its small market from any place in the world via airfreight. The illusion that the weapon of the economy will force it to make political concessions never existed to begin with.

If Doha wants to expand imports, exports and civil and military cooperation with Tehran, it will clash with the US, which subjects countries that deal with Iran to harsh sanctions

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

So why did the four countries boycott Qatar, close their borders and prevent it from using their airspace and land routes to transfer goods? The four countries complain that Qatar funds extremist groups, which oppose them and supports everything that threatens them with domestic chaos.

They have previously resorted to several solutions to resolve this including signing agreements but Doha did not respect them. Therefore, they decided to cut their diplomatic, consular and economic ties with it. As a result, they closed their airspace and land routes with Doha. The boycott pained Qatar but this is not a goal in itself.

There were five million passengers from Saudi Arabia, which the Qatari Airways transported every year. Transporting them has completely halted. Most of the numbers announced by Qatari institutions are diluted and do not express the size of their real losses; however, this will not subject them to bankruptcy.

What has the decision achieved?

It achieved the goals of the four countries, and specifically Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain considering that Egypt is less connected with Doha. The boycott ended Qatar’s interferences in these countries’ internal affairs after it became prohibited to cooperate and deal with any Qatari party or with any party that can be an agent of Qatar. The internal networks that work for Qatar in these countries and that benefitted from the open borders were destroyed.

The four countries do not need Qatar, neither on the political nor on the economic levels. Therefore, they, too, can live without it for 100 years.

However, the Qatari government seems alone and isolated, and it is aware that its people are not pleased with its interferences in other countries’ affairs and are certainly not happy to see the gates of four countries – which they see as the most important ones for them – closed in their face.

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The people of the four boycotting countries do not care much about cancelling Qatar from the map of their visits as Qatar is not a common destination and there are plenty of other alternatives.

What about Qatar’s threat of rapprochement with Iran? Good ties between Doha and Tehran have existed before the boycott and represented a problem that thwarted coordination in the Gulf Cooperation Council because of Qatar.

If Doha wants to expand imports, exports and civil and military cooperation with Tehran, it will clash with the US, which subjects countries that deal with Iran to harsh sanctions especially within vital fields that are linked to American companies and interests.

Finally, most of what has been written to glorify Qatar’s steadfastness is propaganda or an incomplete analysis that does not understand the nature of the long dispute with Doha. The goal is to isolate Doha and its policies and to stop dealing with it.

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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.