The crisis over Qatar’s policies

Sunday 11/06/2017

The crisis over Qatar’s policies continues to unfold and it is in everyone’s interest for Doha to see the error of its ways and the risks they create.

Tiny though it is, Qatar has tried to play an outsized role in the Gulf, the wider region and, indeed, in the whole world.

It tried to do so through the baleful influence of the extremists it cultivated. Qatar has long provided sanctuary to many who preach an ideology and a course of action that are fuelling dangerous levels of tension and instability.

Doha is widely perceived as providing moral and material support to a long list of Islamist groups and playing host to key figures from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian group Hamas, Egypt’s Jamaat Islamiya, Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Afghanistan’s Taliban and others.

Serious charges have been levelled at Qatar. On June 9, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates put 12 organisations and 59 individuals associated with Qatar on a terror sanctions list.

Egypt has asked the UN Security Council to investigate reports that Qatar paid terrorist organisations no less than $1 billion to secure the release of Qatari dignitaries kidnapped in Iraq.

It serves no purpose for Qatar to simply dismiss its neigh­bours’ concerns as baseless. It is no longer possible for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to tolerate such unjustifiable behaviour from a member state. It is not wise or desirable to allow regional stability to be endangered by Qatari ambivalence towards Iranian expansionism and Tehran’s use of destabilising proxies.

Qatar claimed it was committed to the GCC’s security and to the containment of Iran but its actions raised serious questions about the strength and depth of that commitment and its motivation in pursuing policies that could only harm its neigh­bours.

Several Arab countries have expressed concern about Doha’s policy of interference in the affairs of other Arab countries. Doha’s dangerous positions became steadily more untenable when a new generation of Saudi leadership came to the fore.

It may have been hubris or just colossal misjudgement that caused Doha to fail to take note of the growing regional unease about its policies. It might have thought itself unassailable because the largest US air base in the region is on Qatari soil.

Perhaps it was so delusional that it failed to notice the changes in Washington after Donald Trump entered the White House. The new US president is less inclined to tolerate Iran’s regional meddling and, therefore, much less willing to ignore ambiguity towards Tehran.

GCC membership means rights as well as responsibilities. It is time that Qatar behaved in a way that shows, at the very minimum, some commitment to GCC stability and security and that of the wider region.

Media campaigns beamed out of Doha must cease. All coun­tries have the legitimate right to project soft power but not to the detriment of their neighbours and that of regional peace and stability.