Sunday,23 July, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Sunday,23 July, 2017
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Curbing the Qatari menace

Moves by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain against Qatar signal that its meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and support for terrorist activities will no longer be tolerated, writes Hany Ghoraba

The overconfident and impetuous Qatari regime that has played a destructive interventionist role against many Arab League nations is finally witnessing its sunset.

That bizarre role has not deterred the small Arabian Gulf principality from employing terrorist militias to serve its ambitions across the region. Qatar, with a population the size of a small neighbourhood in Cairo, has had the audacity to endorse, finance and host terrorist groups that have created havoc for countries across the region including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has carried on his father’s legacy of directing an army of terrorists and spies across the region in an ill-fated attempt to set up Qatar as a regional player.

Qatar’s endorsement of terrorism was an open secret that every nation around the region and possibly around the world knew about but looked the other way. The financial and media support given by Qatar to Syria’s Jabhat Al-Nusra, Libya’s Fajr Libya, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas group along with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group mean that it has supported terror on an international scale.

For the past five years, Egypt has been vehemently attempting to expose the devastating Qatari role across the region. Among these attempts has been its presentation of a dossier to the UN Security Council containing proof of Qatar’s financing of terrorists in many Middle Eastern hotspots. The fruit of these efforts finally appeared in June 2017 as the world is now finally awake to the havoc created by the Qatari regime in the Middle East and worldwide.

Nevertheless, the propaganda and financial machine of Qatar is still at work, and this can be seen in the form of the Al-Jazeera TV network and some pro-Qatari Western media outlets and Qatari-financed think tanks, such as the Brookings Institute in the US, which have attempted to mask the ugly reality of Qatar’s support for many of the most dangerous terrorists worldwide.

For nearly a decade, the Qatari Islamist news network Al-Jazeera has been a hub for dissidents from all over the Arabic-speaking world, acting under the pretext of human rights and freedom of speech. To some, it has seemed that Al-Jazeera has fulfilled the great dream of free speech and a free media. However, time has shown that since 1996 Al-Jazeera has fostered separatist, sectarian and extremist rhetoric when addressing the regional and internal issues of nations across the Middle East. It has managed to distract public opinion through lies by pointing fingers at Egypt and accusing the country’s leadership of “dictatorship”, which according to its twisted logic is a source of terrorism.

Unfortunately, these arguments have found audiences among some members of the Western intelligentsia who have been convinced by them. However, they altered their view when terrorism struck at the very heart of democratic nations. Only then did some Western politicians and pundits along with the broader public start to listen to the Egyptian point of view on the role played by the Qatari and Turkish regimes in the current wave of terrorism afflicting the Middle East and the world as a whole.

Egypt has exercised the kind of patience that would befit a Buddhist monk. However, patience does not change hostile stances but actually encourages enemies to go further and more bluntly. Political analysts in Egypt have been divided on the correctness of severing ties with Qatar, but most of them have been more reluctant to see the postponement of such a move due to various elements. These include the need to ensure good diplomatic relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the large numbers of Egyptians working in Qatar. While these reasons are indeed reasonable, it cannot be the case that the interests and security of the Egyptian state are less important than other considerations.

Fortunately, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have now finally acknowledged the devious schemes of the Qatari regime that were directed against overthrowing their own thrones. Diplomacy has seemed to come to an end as a result, and now there has been a severing of diplomatic ties along with a transportation, financial and commercial blockade on Qatar that has seemed an inevitable step as a result of Qatari breaches of protocol.

 

A UNITED FRONT AGAINST TERROR: US President Donald Trump on 9 June delivered a speech in which he strongly warned the Qatari regime about its funding of terrorism across the world. That speech may be the last nail in the coffin of the Qatari regime, as it is now left with little choice but to comply with international demands or face tougher sanctions.

Furthermore, a joint declaration by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain has included the listing of 59 persons and 12 entities, mostly Qatari and Iranian-affiliated Bahraini organisations, as terrorist entities. The declaration represents a clear message to Qatar and its allies Turkey and Iran that these nations along with the United States will exercise zero tolerance towards Qatari activities of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and supporting terrorist activities.

The declaration coupled by the warning to Qatar by Trump places the Qatari regime in a dilemma that may end up with its demise in the foreseeable future. The regime is not doing itself any favours when it attempts to sleep with the enemy, in this case Iran and Turkey.

Both the Turkish and the Iranian regimes have been sources of mayhem in the region and have funded and harboured countless terrorist organisations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, Hamas and IS. The Qatari regime’s attempts to seek protection by utilising these pariahs will only cement its status as a rogue regime and will entail increasing pressures on it and thus significantly shorten its lifespan.

Despite the immense wealth that the gas-rich Gulf state enjoys, this will hardly be sufficient to fend off the wrath of the giants of the region along with that of the United States. The siege is not simply restricted to transportation and the economy, but it also extends to ongoing discussion at the highest levels on stripping the Arabian Gulf state of its right to host international sporting events, among them the Football World Cup in 2022.

Qatar’s most treasured and crowning achievement is the hosting of the Football World Cup, achieved according to many sports analysts by corruption as allegations of this sort have been made against the entire FIFA governing body. It was unfathomable that Qatar, with its limited experience and very modest football record, beat the United States for the honour of hosting this great sporting event. With accusations of corruption and international condemnations of its use of slave labour in constructing the new sports venues ongoing, Qatar could have done without supporting terrorism as well, though this goes to show that the award to Qatar of the sports event was a terrible decision by FIFA.

In the light of current events, it will require a miracle for Qatar to retain its World Cup hosting rights without major reforms or regime change in the country.

For decades to come, historians will be baffled at Qatar’s outrageous attempts to control the fate of much larger nations without even having the basic prerequisites for that task. History may be full of smaller-sized nations controlling larger ones, with the Greek, Roman and British Empires serving as prime examples. However, all of these had elements in common that included large armies, robust economies, and great cultural strength. Qatar has none of these things despite its being a gas-rich country.

Accordingly, Qatar’s attempt to play a major role in the region will be historically deemed to be surreal — the equivalent of the Principality of Lichtenstein attempting to control Europe and the fate of countries such as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy or other European giants.

For nearly two decades, the gas-rich state of Qatar has utilised its resources and the media power that it has garnered over the years in the service of mayhem, destruction, and chaos across the Middle East. There is hardly a country in the Middle East that has not received its fair share of Qatari interventions in its domestic politics, in a best-case scenario, or even having terrorists on its soil funded and supported by the tiny Gulf state, in a worst. For an autocratic country with an absolute monarchy represented by its emir, the Qatari regime’s preaching about democracy and freedom of speech is like a drunkard preaching about the virtues of sobriety.

In 1993, the Colombian authorities with the help of their American counterparts managed to locate and kill the drug-runner Pablo Escobar and dismantle his vast drug-smuggling network that extended from Colombia all the way to the East Coast of the US. Such massive efforts did not end the drug trade in the Americas, but they did represent a major blow to one of the biggest masterminds in the international drug cartels.

Dismantling the Qatari regime’s terrorist networks and their funding along with their media outlets will not end terrorism because Qatar is not the only country harbouring terrorism or promoting extremist ideologies. However, these things will represent a major and critical blow to jihadist groups across the world for which Qatar provided funding, shelter and media support for over a decade. They will thus be a victory in a decisive battle in the long war against terrorism.


The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.

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