After three years of boycott, Qatar not finding way out

As things stand now, Qatar and its media machine and financial capabilities are in the service of Turkish expansion plans
Friday 05/06/2020
Iranian President Hassan Rohani shaking hands with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) following a joint press conference in Tehran, last January.

DOHA - Qataris are despairing of a possible way out of their country's crisis with four Arab countries that boycotted it in June 2017 due to Doha's alleged support for extremist groups and close ties with Tehran.

They are despairing of the reopening of the borders so they can return to exchanging visits and interests, and reunite with their relatives in boycotting countries. Qataris are suffering, and their predicament is compounded by the stubbornness of Qatari authorities, who continue to invest in their isolation in the media.

As the boycott begins its fourth year this month, Qatar does not seem ready or willing to learn from the process and accept once and for all the firm positions of the four boycotting countries.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt presented Doha with a clear and unequivocal equation: Either straightforwardly comply with the declared thirteen conditions, without manoeuvring, equivocation or fragmentation, or close the case for good.

For the four boycotting countries, the second option seems to be the default status, despite Qatar's attempts to keep the crisis alive through mediators and contradictory statements in the press.

Qatar has seized on any statements by US officials addressing the need to resolve the Gulf dispute, spinning them to create the impression that Washington is on Doha's side in the crisis and is seeking to have the boycott against it lifted. The truth, however, is that all official US statements about the crisis are routine statements of American foreign policy that in no way validate Qatar's “jubilant” interpretations.

US President Donald Trump previously impressed on the Qatari regime that they must sever ties with extremism, something Qatar has still not done. Doha continues to face accusations of funding extremist groups, such as the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, and of hosting members of these groups and giving them access to Qatari media.

Followers of Gulf affairs say that Qataris are not hiding their urgent need for a breakthrough in their relationship with countries important to them such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, but there are certain circles within the Qatari ruling family who oppose this direction and work every time to increase tension with media campaigns, mostly on Al Jazeera channel.

This channel's agenda is clearly controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, and this organisation is adamant on using Doha as a platform to attack the boycotting countries, especially Egypt. The Brotherhood believes that keeping the crisis alive serves its interest and provides it with safe haven.

Not long ago, Kuwait worked to revive negotiations towards a solution to the crisis, but Qatar’s contradictory reactions to these efforts revealed Doha’s inability to have and formulate a coherent position on the issue. While it publicly welcomed the Kuwaiti efforts, it impeded them in practice. Doha continued to evade its obligations with respect to the conditions submitted by the boycotting country, knowing very well their insistence on Doha’s compliance with them before considering restoring relations.

While those efforts were taking place, Qatari media, led by Al Jazeera, turned into a virtual third party in the conflict. A stream of non-Qatari commentators and pundits, especially from the Muslim Brotherhood, kept fanning the flames of the crisis and heaping insults and abuse on the boycotting countries and their leaderships.

It is clear that the Qatari regime has learned nothing of the harsh isolation imposed on the country. Qatari officials kept making simplistic arguments and pursuing their shallow approach based on the possibility of mitigating their country’s isolation from its immediate Gulf and Arab environment by resorting to both Iran and Turkey, despite the grave caveats presented by this approach.

Thus, a simple examination of which party is benefiting the most from the current Qatari-Turkish relations reveals that these relations are a one-way street flowing in Ankara’s direction. Thanks to those relations, Ankara has finally realised its imperial dream of having a military and security foothold in the Gulf, while the opportunist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government found an easy access to Qatar’s wealth and did not hesitate to take full advantage of it in order to redress Turkey’s volatile financial situation.

As things stand now, Qatar and its media machine and financial capabilities are in the service of Turkish expansion plans, especially in Syria and Libya, where Ankara is struggling to achieve practical gains. At the same time, it is not clear what Qatar’s gains are from its interference in these files, an interference that harms the peoples of the region and creates more resentment and hostility towards the Qatari side.