The authorities in Doha had three strengths; their media, money and effective diplomacy, to compensate for three other things; a small population, a small landmass and a weak army. However, when it comes to the current crisis, Qatar seems small and weak to everyone and is appearing as an easy target. So what happened?
We must note that Qatar has graciously and effectively succeeded in imposing itself on the Arab world’s political scenes for many years while benefiting from these three traits. It also benefitted from other things such as operating in the vacuum that the region lived through. Egypt under the presidency of Hosni Mubarak avoided engaging in conflicts and only addressed Doha’s interferences and frank incitement via calm diplomatic and limited media responses. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been busy putting out the fire, which Qatar has ignited instead of directly confronting it in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen and inside the kingdom itself.
When we note Qatar’s small area or population, we do not mean this as a demerit. Singapore is a small and great country and Qatar is 12 times bigger than it, and it has around half the population of Singapore. Qatar is also bigger than Lebanon. What we’re criticizing is the fact that Qatar’s government thinks it is a major power that wants to change the region and impose its policies without any considerations about its size and without respecting other countries. Qatar wants to achieve change in the region when it does not practice any of what it tries to impose by force on others to alter their regimes. It supports and funds contradictory ideologies in Egypt and Tunisia, from democracy to extremist Islam, and it does not implement any of them.
These several contradictory characters, or Qatar’s schizophrenia, have led Doha to lose the world’s respect. Doha has a liberal face on the inside and an extremist, Brotherhood face on foreign policy front. It is the capital of contradictions as it supports and funds extremists in the Iraqi province of Anbar and hosts their leaders who live in Qatar near the American military base from which fighter jets launch to shell Fallujah and Ramadi every day! Qatar and Iran are responsible for Palestinian divisions as they supported Hamas against the Palestinian Authority and hosted leaders from Hamas and the Israeli office in Doha.
Several contradictory characters, or Qatar’s schizophrenia, have led Doha to lose the world’s respectAbdulrahman al-Rashed
For years, Qatar has supported Saudi Arabia’s rivals in Yemen. It supported the Houthis and some northern Yemeni tribes who fought Saudi Arabia in the end of the last decade. It also funded Saudi opposition figures inside and outside the Saudi kingdom. At the same time, it spoke about brotherly ties and neighborly relations and made other similar empty talk. Regional countries’ silence and patience over Qatar’s practices is what made the Qatari government go too far. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates finally decided to look at the source of chaos instead of confronting its proxies.
When the tables turn
Then, Qatar’s three traits, money, media and diplomacy, became the traits of its rivals – the four aforementioned countries – which gave Qatar a taste of its own medicine. Qatar suddenly found itself in a place where it’s being insulted and mocked. It found itself isolated and began to fear for its security and existence. With time and as calamities increased, Qatar gradually realized that it’s really a small country and that without its Gulf and Arab brothers, it has no worth and it will not be able to live in peace. Qatar found out that the massive al-Udeid military base will not protect it and that its threats to seek Iran’s or Turkey’s help did not scare its rivals. It also realized that the Brotherhood media support or marketing $170 billion in the West and its networks of beneficiaries in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and other countries did not worry its enemies. All this will not give Doha a night of peace of mind.
Qatar needs to understand the cruel world for what it is. The truth is, Qatar lived and wreaked havoc in the region because its neighbors are patient and not because it is strong.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates deprived Qatar of its three traits. Together, these four countries have bigger media, more money and faster and more vital diplomacy. Qatar’s government sought the help of the outcast foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem and his team and at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington. Those who saw how Hamad had to convey a message via CNN to President Donald Trump after he (Hamad) failed will realize the extent of Qatar’s involvement in this crisis and the extent of the latter’s repercussions on Doha.
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