Tuesday,19 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Tuesday,19 June, 2018
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Arab counter-terrorism doctrine

The Arab world is once again grappling with a new test shaped by the dynamics of the Qatar crisis and the embargo imposed by countries opposed to the practices of the ruling house in Doha. The Qatari leadership has been supporting and funding terrorist groups and militias across the length and breadth of the Arab region for years, wreaking havoc on Arab societies, while it offered shelter to extremists from the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organisations and ignored the interests of Arab security in general. In their recent declarations of stances towards Qatari policy, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain effectively said this was only the first step and more would follow. These four countries’ joint statement containing a list of Qatari individuals and organisations and non-Qatari individuals and organisations supported and sheltered by Doha that pose a danger to the peace and security of the Middle East underscores the seriousness of the first step. The jointly produced list, perhaps marking a precedent in the history of Arab collaboration in counter-terrorism, includes organisations and other entities that operate behind a façade of philanthropic work while funnelling millions of dollars a year to terrorist groups. The list enumerated 59 individuals and 12 organisations in Qatar, other Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan that support terrorist organisations and jeopardise the national security of the countries that have joined forces to isolate the Qatari regime from its Arab environment.

“The four states renew their commitment to their role in enhancing all efforts to fight terrorism and to lay the foundations for security and stability in the region, and they reaffirm that they will not slacken in this purpose and will support all possible means to pursue individuals and groups responsible for terrorism, regionally and globally,” the joint statement said, adding that the four countries “will continue to combat terrorist activities and eliminate sources of its funding regardless of their provenance” and that they “will continue to work effectively with partners around the world in order to put an end to terrorist and extremist organisations and groups the activities of which no state should tolerate.”

Officials from the four countries have confirmed, in their statements, that the decision to subject Qatar to an embargo was taken because of its persistence in a mode of behaviour inimical to Arab countries and because all efforts to dissuade it from supporting terrorist organisations had failed. In addition, Qatar has persisted in meddling in the domestic affairs of other states in a manner that jeopardises their security and stability and harms the unity of Arab states.

Egyptian/Arab diplomatic actions in the framework of the UN Security Council are consistent with the joint statement blacklisting individuals and entities that support terrorism and add important complementary facets to the siege against terrorism in the Middle East. In tandem with the release of the abovementioned statement, Egypt issued an appeal to the UN Security Council urging all member states to commit to the principle of preventing terrorists from directly or indirectly benefiting from moneys obtained by means of ransom or any form of concession to political blackmail. International press agencies had recently reported that Qatar paid around $1 billion to a terrorist organisation operating in Iraq in order to secure the release of a number of members of the ruling family who had been abducted and detained by that terrorist organisation. If, indeed, this proves to be the case, the Egyptian delegate at the UN said, it constitutes a violation of Security Council resolutions and can have grave repercussions on counter-terrorism efforts, as it is a form of direct support for terrorism.

The basic accusation levelled at Qatar by the countries that severed diplomatic relations with it is that Doha failed to abide by the Riyadh Agreement of 2014 in accordance with which it pledged to cease intervening in the domestic affairs of the Gulf countries and other Arab nations, to ban all persons hostile to the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to halt the campaigns of incitement waged by the Qatari media apparatus, to relinquish support for the Muslim Brotherhood, to prevent religious figures in Qatar from using mosque pulpits and Qatari media as platforms to attack GCC countries and to cease incitement against Egypt.

The significance of the jointly declared blacklist of individuals and entities that support terrorism is that it is a “coordinated” action of a sort that rarely occurs these days in view of the current state of the Arab region. It is possible to build on it by, for example, agreeing on measures to dry up sources of funding for the domestic wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya or measures to end foreign intervention in the affairs of a large Arab state such as Iraq.

The Qatari crisis could be the beginning of an Arab political maturity in handling domestic strife and violence face on, without circumventing the true causes. There is a Sunni-Shia clash that must be averted. Towards this end, it is necessary to reach a broad consensus over how to contain the factors that encourage Iranian intervention in the domestic affairs of Arab countries. At the same time, the Arab League needs to play a more positive role by furnishing an extensive umbrella of political, economic, security and social frameworks for countering the causes of terrorism and fighting the funding processes for groups that threaten social peace and state entities in the region. Perhaps the collaboration between the quartet of Arab states is a prelude to such an extensive Arab umbrella, precisely because of these countries’ weight and influence.

Forging a “unified Arab doctrine” in the fight to eliminate terrorism is an important step that needs to be taken soon so that the concerted action against Qatar does not remain a mere anomaly, regardless of the outcome of the current confrontation with Doha. Solutions proposed by parties outside the region offer little prospect for the realisation of stability and little incentive towards consensus. On the contrary, they would only further protract the wars and armed conflicts. It is therefore vital that the solutions to this region’s crises come from within this region and that they address realities on the ground. Only then will it be possible to stem the attrition on the resources and capacities of the Arab peoples.

This region has become a vast arms market that serves the interests of the major powers in the international arena. It has failed so far to become a gigantic market for the creation of jobs and to manufacture hope for millions of young people throughout the region.

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