Qatari activist denounces Iranian influence in her country

Sunday 09/07/2017
Explaining Doha. A screenshot from a video shows Qatari dissident Muna al-Sulaiti. (YouTube)

Cairo- Qatari dissident Muna al-Sulaiti said, because of support Doha is receiving from some countries, it is unlikely to acquiesce to the demands of the four Arab coun­tries that have cut ties with it. She said that backing is emboldening Doha to challenge demands by boycotting states.

Sulaiti, active in the Qatari political opposition, is the sister of Qatari Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim al-Sulaiti. She fled the country five years ago.

Her entanglement with the Qatari regime began when she said she discovered evidence of corruption inside the Supreme Education Council, she told The Arab Weekly. After criticising the government on social media, Sulaiti was stripped of her job as an Arabic teacher, which she had had for 15 years, and imprisoned. She left Qatar at the end of 2012 and settled in Alexandria, Egypt.

Sulaiti said that changing the regime in Qatar is not sufficient to resolve the crisis with the Gulf countries. She said the broader focus should be on Iran’s influ­ence in Qatar, which she referred to as “Iranian occupation.”

Sulaiti said Iranian elements were behind many crises in the region and that their aim has been to prepare the ground for Iran’s interests in the area and in the Middle East in general. She said Iran and Turkey are pursuing different agendas in Qatar, even though both countries are trying to use Qatar to gain a foothold in the Arab world.

For Sulaiti, Turkey sees Qatar as a gate through which to pursue its interests in the Middle East. Iran, she said, sees it as a “colony” to be used as a base for its expan­sionist plans in the MENA region.

Sulaiti said that despite Ankara flexing its military muscle, “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will not go as far as to sacrifice his relations with Saudi Arabia for the sake of Qatar.” She warned against “Iran’s interventionist attempts to unravel the Qatari social fabric.”

“The Qatari regime is using certain elements to execute Iran’s plans for Qatar first and the rest of the Gulf countries next,” Sulaiti said.

She said she has witnessed the implantation of different factions and groups committed to political Islam in Qatar.

“Doha will continue to support these groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, as Qataris are involved in many terrorist operations carried out by these groups inside many Arab coun­tries,” she said.” What compli­cates things is that these groups consider the Qatari government as a partner and not just a source of support.”

Sulaiti said that if the Qatari regime came to rely on using these groups in its crisis with the Gulf countries, it would be as a fast-moving militia against external targets.

“The Qatari regime had already resorted to using these groups as its armed militia in the zones of the ‘Arab spring.’ Letting go of them right now seems impossi­ble,” she noted.

Sulaiti was imprisoned from the beginning of 2011 until the second half of 2012, she said. During her imprisonment, she took pictures of the prison with her phone. Later, the US Embassy in Qatar established that that same place was used as a training base by al-Qaeda, she said.

Sulaiti cited what she said were many examples of Qatar’s involvement in terrorist opera­tions in Arab countries.

“Qatar had sent specially trained forces to Libya to lay hands on the pipelines with the complicity of local militia which Qatar continues to finance and arm to this day. Many Qatari officers confirmed that,” she said.

Sulaiti was quick to point out that the operations in Libya were carried out for the benefit of other regional powers. The same units were involved in weapons smuggling to Sudan and Egypt.

She described Qatar’s role in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen as “the ultimate betrayal.” Qatar has tried to enroll tribal heads in Jizan in southern Saudi Arabia and used them to give logistical and intelligence support to the Houthis in Yemen.

Sulaiti insisted that the “Qataris cannot believe that their country can be involved in all these conspiracies against its neigh­bours. They are stunned and angry but can do nothing against the ruthlessness of the regime.”

“There is no real political opposition inside Qatar,” Sulaiti argued. “The anti-Qatar camp in the current crisis can use the situation to its advantage by agreeing on a new leader from the ruling family but not from the Hamad branch.”