Gulf countries’ problem with Qatar began when Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa assumed power, and it can end by actually – and not formally – keeping him away from governance.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa attained power after he staged a coup against his father, exiled him and seized his money. The first phase of his rule was marked with insecurity as he was afraid of the reaction of the small circle surrounding him after he isolated and exiled his father.
He was also afraid of the bigger circle surrounding him, i.e. the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in case it did not accept change via this approach which was strange to tribal and new political traditions in the region. Since it is easy to deprive a ruler of power and transfer it to another in Qatar, he always felt these two circles can deprive him of authority.
This is why he founded, built and adopted a Qatari project that he thinks will keep him in power, provide him with stability and protect him. Sheikh Hamad thought that his alliance with superpowers and acceptance to fund division projects in the Arab world is the best guarantee to remain a ruler – especially that these projects are about toppling countries surrounding him.
He thought Qatar would be the only power with central command in the new region, which will be formed after other countries are toppled. Doha thought this new region will be governed by groups that owe it for helping them reach power.
The solution is in Sheikh Tamim’s hands as he alone can save Qatar. Our role is to encourage him, open the door for him and help him to seriously take matters into his own handsSawsan Al Shaer
A new Middle East
The US, Iran and Israel drew a new Middle East and agreed on the necessity to redraw the map of the Arab region to be ruled by “minorities” and “religious groups,” which will owe Qatar and be grateful to it for its role in helping them attain power, and to be managed by Qatar as most of these groups’ leaders are embraced by Doha. Sheikh Hamad will thus guarantee he stays in power and Qatar will remain standing after surrounding countries collapse.
What countries that recently decided to boycott Qatar are demanding is not about details such as closing Al-Jazeera television channel or severing relations with some groups. They are asking it to end its relation with Hamad bin Khalifa’s project, i.e. to end the major project which Hamad bin Khalifa and his minister worked on implementing for 20 years now – ever since Hamad assumed power – and spent billions on.
Cutting ties with the project means cutting ties with all armed organizations, which undermined security in the region. What’s more important is to end relations with these organization’s political wings and stop providing them with financial or logistical support.
It is easy to meet these demands by just suspending the work of institutions that fund terrorist groups and expelling political wings. These can be implemented in one day. The most important point is that these demands do not harm the Qatari people and mean nothing to them as they do not even know that their command is involved in them.
Meeting these demands will bring the Qatari people back to their natural Gulf surroundings. However, will Hamad bin Khalifa accept to give up on his project? Will he accept to retire and settle with the role of being the silent father after he’s come this far? Is he one of those who accept to be marginalized and who admit defeat and that his project basically ended since it was exposed?
The more important questions
I do not think so. Let’s raise the more important question. Can Sheikh Tamim, who’s surrounded by his father and brothers, convince them or force them to admit that this project is over and they must abide by the facts which help Qatar restore its realistic and natural size after it punched above its weight? Can he convince them or force them to understand that he deserves to be granted a chance to rearrange Qatar’s positioning in its natural surrounding?
Will he convince them that he deserves to rule the new Qatar that is open to its neighbors and is secure and reassured in its neighbors’ fold and which protects its own stability and security while looking after its neighbors’ security? This is difficult due to his father’s tight grip. His father also insists to proceed with this project although it is impossible to execute it after it has been publicly exposed and confronted.
Hamad bin Khalifa is still maneuvering and denying. He is trying to buy time as he hopes he can divide the front, which is confronting the most dangerous project in the region. He is trying to pressure this front by gaining people’s sympathy and mobilizing businesses’ owners and allies, Turkey, Iran and Israel, and whoever he can from the American administration. His attempts have so far failed as he does not want to admit that the boycotting countries exposed his plans after exhausting all other options.
The solution is in Sheikh Tamim’s hands as he alone can save Qatar. Our role is to encourage him, open the door for him and help him to seriously take matters into his own hands. The fact that his father has not publicly made any statements yet and that Hamad bin Jassem has not made statements from Qatar may be an indicator that Tamim is trying to restrain his father and prevent him from complicating matters. Therefore, we must send positive messages to Tamim that the only way to solve this crisis is to back down from his father’s project.
This will not close the door on Sheikh Tamim especially that there are young leaders in the boycotting countries and given the recent active mediation efforts. It would rather help him find a way out and it will help Qatar save itself from an unknown fate.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer