Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

When will the ‘crisis’ end?

The sum of events around the boycott of Qatar and its response does not constitute a crisis per se, writes Abdel-Moneim Said


اقرأ باللغة العربية

The media is constantly asking officials, experts and analysts when will the Qatar crisis end? Sometimes the question is posed alternatively as: what are the possible scenarios to end the Qatar crisis? It is also asked evasively, with a measure of surprise or confusion amid political developments and mediation efforts as: why didn’t mediation end the Qatar crisis? All these questions are based on two wrong assumptions: first, that the boycott of Qatar and severing diplomatic ties by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain — along with several other countries — constitutes an international “crisis”. Second, that this crisis must end immediately and urgently. Both assumptions are mistaken since the sum of events (the boycott and Qatar’s response) does not constitute a crisis nor is there a deadline to immediately end it. An international crisis requires several components, and none are present in the Qatar “crisis” except that it involves states with key contradictory interests regarding their national security.

Qatar’s policies undermining political stability in countries that are its partners in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), support, fund and harbour terrorist organisations, as well as cooperate with countries hostile to GCC members. This invited sanctions by three GCC countries as well as Egypt which was also subject to this behaviour. None of this came as a “surprise” for Qatar — and surprise is a key element of a “crisis” — because Doha knew it was violating agreements signed in 2013 and 2014. Nor was time “too short to take decisions”, which is another key element of a crisis. In fact, the boycott camp patiently waited for three years without threat to use force, mobilising troops or fleets or flexing their military muscles one way or another. The only “semblance” of using military power was the arrival of Turkish troops in Qatar, even though their size and capabilities in light of the balance of military power in the region do not worry anyone.

Thus, the Qatari “crisis” is not a “crisis” as defined in international relations. So far, at most, it is a quarrel over serious differences between Qatar and its neighbours resulting from specific Doha policies that threaten the security and vital interests of some countries. The response to these policies were punitive measures that will end as soon as these policies end. There is no deadline to end the measures that began 4 June 2017. Similar steps were taken before in international relations, such sanctions against Russia by Europe and the US when the former occupied Crimea. They were stiffened by the US after evidence that Russia tried to interfere in the US presidential race. Similar action was also taken against Iran when it pursued a nuclear programme. None of these were seen as “crises” in the general sense, but positions against policies that are defined as violating international law and customs. There is no need for them to end as long as the policies that led to them remain in place.

Qatar has persisted on calling the situation a “crisis” as did other international players who want to find an exit for Qatar without guarantees it will end policies that threaten the security of its neighbours and “sisters”. The reason for using the term “crisis” is to create a situation where everyone is equal and imply there are four countries ganging up against one, so Qatar receives undeserved sympathy that ignores its behaviour and breach of signed international agreements — even though it claims the current matter is subject to international law. It claims there is no incitement or harbouring terrorist groups or funding of violence. The US and some European countries used the expression “crisis” because they want to mock the Arabs who are relentless in causing crises around the world, regardless of the subject matter. Especially since there is evidence these countries encouraged Qatar to carry out these policies either to create a medium of communication with terrorist groups or Iran or support the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group — as if it were moderate and capable of liberal democratic rule in the Arab world.

Indeed, the Qatari “crisis” is not one at all. It’s probably not a Qatari issue either, since the meddling of Iran and Turkey is clearly evident. And whatever else is hidden by others will eventually be known. What we see is nothing more than a Qatari front being manipulated by others behind the scenes. Whether or not this is a crisis, there is no urgent need to end it immediately or anytime soon. The countries boycotting Qatar are taking sovereign action to defend their interests. Nothing in international law requires any country to maintain close diplomatic or economic ties with another that propagates terrorism, violence or undermines the legitimacy of the regime, which is what is happening day and night 24/7 by media platforms that are not only based in Qatar, but extend to more than 250 other platforms in Istanbul, London and other European capitals.

If all this were true, the persistent question on the Qatari “crisis” and when it will end is gravely inaccurate. Insistence on it by Qatar and Western correspondents is an attempt to give Qatar a victory it does not deserve and has not earned in reality, because sanctions are still in place and will not be lifted if Qatar does not halt its policies. There must also be guarantees that it will not return to them once again. This means that public declarations sought by some international players are not enough, such as verbal promises by Qatar without practical steps including closing down Al-Jazeera, and expelling Muslim Brotherhood members and foreign military forces from Qatar. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain are in no hurry. They have kept Qatar out of the Arab coalition and thus are safe from backstabbing during fateful battles. Qatar is the only party that should be sorry for paying such a high price for its foolish policies.

The writer is chairman of the board, CEO and director of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.

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