Disputes between countries are common and they happen everywhere and at all times. However, in Qatar’s case, they are harmful, ongoing and unjustified. I tended to trivialize them every time as a passing summer cloud but unfortunately developments in the past 20 years proved us wrong.
The first time we witnessed these Qatari-related disputes was in December 1990. Kuwait was still occupied, around a million of its citizens and residents were displaced and its government was in exile. That month, leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries met in Doha and tackled one subject, which is liberating the occupied member country.
The leaders were shocked when Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa insisted to discuss a matter that concerns him. Back then, he was the Heir Apparent and leader of the Supreme Planning Council. He refused to discuss liberating Kuwait until they finalize an old dispute between Qatar and Bahrain over the sovereignty of the Hawar Islands. We were surprised when we saw them open the hall door and as King Fahd, may he rest in peace, angrily walked out and Hamad tried to follow him.
The king threatened him to withdraw and return to Riyadh and the other leaders did the same. Everyone was surprised by Hamad’s approach and thinking. Ever since and until today, Qatar’s problems have been ongoing with everyone.
These problems increased after Hamad staged a coup against his father and sowed disputes for two decades. His policies lived on as they have his fingerprints even after his assigned his son Tamim to govern. For Saudi Arabia, Doha became a passage and a center for its rivals.
Qatar adopts a very dangerous approach at a time when the region is surrounded by threats which threaten to destroy all what’s left of the stability the Middle East has known since World War IIAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Harboring opposition figures
It harbored opposition figures who call for altering governance by power and it adopted the alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria’s current president for an entire decade. Qatar then expanded the map of its rivalry until it got into problems with more than half of the region’s countries.
Since its behavior is very dangerous, the recent decisions were made to sever ties with it and cancel all what links these four countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt – to Doha. The decision does not express accumulated anger as it was said but it expresses a conviction that we cannot hope for any use and there is rather no hope in reforming Doha’s authorities.
Qatar’s battles may seem childish. That’s true. However, they are in fact harmful as they fund organizations and individuals against their governments and open several television channels, websites and social media accounts to launch organized campaigns that frankly call for toppling these governments by force. It is now allying with groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, that want religious governance, like Iran’s.
Their failure in the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Libya and Yemen did not discourage them from continuing to spread chaos in the region. The last nail in the coffin of these relations was last week when Qatari state media outlets broadcast calls for a revolution in Saudi Arabia.
What’s more dangerous is what it is doing against Bahrain. Qatar has not stopped funding the Bahraini opposition, whether peaceful or armed. Despite everything Qatar did, it failed to topple the Bahraini regime.
Harmful, ongoing and unjustified
Qatar’s only success was in Lebanon when it frankly supported the Assad regime and Hezbollah during their assassination of Lebanese leaders and occupation of West Beirut, which have allowed them to dominate the country until today. Doha is recently reviving communicating with Iran and this angered most Gulf countries. This is why I began my article by stating that Qatar’s problems are harmful, ongoing and unjustified.
Qatar may be under the illusion that what it is doing against its neighbor Bahrain will topple the regime there and enable it to expand its emirate. It thinks the same will happen when it targets its second neighbor, Saudi Arabia, with chaos. Qatar does everything and supports everyone without distinction.
It supports religiously extremist groups, Salafist and Brotherhood groups, Arab fascist and nationalist parties and leftist groups. It exclusively broadcasted al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s video tapes in which they frankly called for killing the Americans when it hosted the largest American military base. Operations that shell Afghanistan and Iraq are launched from this base. Qatar also funds armed groups that attack American troops in Iraq.
This irrationality in politics clearly shows everyone that we are before the policy of a country that’s impossible to understand or to have a truce with. Qatar adopts a very dangerous approach at a time when the region is surrounded by threats which – the least we can say about them – threaten to destroy all what’s left of the stability the Middle East has known since World War II.
What authorities are doing in Doha is mad or as we informally say it’s a “nutjob.”
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