Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 20th, 2017

The Ifs and Buts about Saudi-Qatar’s Tension

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The Ifs and Buts about Saudi-Qatar’s Tension

The sudden tension between Riyadh and Doha – which prompted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt to sever diplomatic tie with Qatar last Monday – was debated hotly in social and international media. The four countries claimed that Qatar supported “extremism” which was denied by Qatari officials. The issue seems to be a game-changer in Arab world and will have repercussions for the Middle East.
Shortly following the severing of diplomatic ties and border closure between Qatar and the three Arab Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, Qatari nationals were ordered to leave within 14 days. Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens were also given the same timeframe to leave Qatar. As a result, hundreds of mixed-citizenship Qatari couples are facing the grim prospect of being split from their families. This is the first ill effect of the non-diplomatic way of severing ties between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Late on Thursday, a joint statement by Egypt and three members of GCC Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE named 59 individuals and 12 charity organizations in Qatar of being “linked to terror”. However, Stephane Dujarric, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterras’ spokesman, said, “The UN is bound only by the sanctions lists put together by UN organs such as the Security Council. We’re not bound by any other lists.”
The severing ties between members of the GCC comes as a large number of men, women and children are burning amidst violence and bloodshed in Iraq, Syria, etc. Perhaps, if this diplomatic ties have been severed mainly with the aim of weakening terrorist activities to protect the rights and dignity of war victims, it will be a highly positive movement. However, if there are other reasons except for what has been claimed by the four countries, it will be self-destructive in such a critical time.
Qatari analysts bring three main reasons behind the severing ties between Riyadh and Doha. First, they believe that Qatar supports the democratic movement of Arab Spring which is not favored by its political rivals. To use the exact words of a writer, “Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s increasing embrace of the revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East had further enraged the palaces in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.”  This argument indicates that Qatar is involved in supporting Syrian forces against the Assad’s regime. In other words, the Syria’s conflict is also part of Arab Spring supported by Doha. Whether or not the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is backed by Qatari emirate still remains a mystery.
The second reason, according to pro-Qatar analysts, is Qatar’s support to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is against the Riyadh’s policy. This support further increased after Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012. Hence, Qatar shares a strong tie with “moderate Islamist group” No wonder, Saudi also pointed out Qatar’s support to MB one of the reasons behind the diplomatic severing, since the MB were declared a terrorist organization by the four countries Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in 2015 due to alleged terrorist activities. Therefore, Riyadh and Abdu Dhabi “participated in the organization of the July 2013 military coup” that put an end to Morsi’s presidency by supporting anti-Muslim Brotherhood figures with the Egyptian military.
Qatar’s tendency to follow a foreign policy independent from the Gulf states has been said the third reason. This initiative has been adopted by Kuwait and Oman earlier. So, this would put Saudi’s influence under question.
To sum up, the three analyses seem close to the fact, mainly when Qatar’s support to revolutionary uprising and Muslim Brotherhood has been stated directly. Since the ISIL group is widely involved in Syria’s conflict, this also might gain Qatar’s support against the Assad’s regime.
Some political pundits believe that Doha’s support to MB’s offshoot Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (HAMAS), which was founded in 1987, will bring Iran and Qatar to a close point. Although after the Riyadh-Doha’s tension Iran offered to export food to Qatar, this does not necessarily mean brining their foreign policy to a single point. To put it succinctly, the two countries will extend their commercial relations but may not their policy regarding the Middle East issue. Perhaps, Hamas is supported by both the countries, but Iran’s anti-ISIL’s policy is undeniable.
It is emphasized that if the four countries seek to undermine extremists, mainly the ISIL group, it is the right time and right policy. The world will have to join forces to fight militant fighters so as to protect the rights and liberty of war victims and prevent from the spread of terrorism. The four countries, which have severed tie with Qatar, are supposed to act this way with any countries supporting extremism, if they are really genuine in this claim and launch a strong military attacks against extremist groups.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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