Questioning Qatar’s choices

Sunday 04/06/2017
Words and choices. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani gives a news conference in Doha, on May 25. (AFP)

A look at the crisis raging between the Qatari government and the Gulf Coop­eration Council (GCC) countries shows intriguing and even amusing paradoxes.

Doha’s wrongs risk getting worse if it continues to support the Mus­lim Brotherhood and if its Iranian leanings turn out to be the expres­sion of a strategic choice. One wonders if the positions expressed by the Qatari rulers were taken out of conviction or the reflection of specific goals and many misgivings with no vision or policy choices backing them.

It is obvious that the Qatari logic is steeped in a mixture of stub­bornness, guile and mistrust. It is based on a painful heritage of years of uneasy relations with Qatar’s neighbours, which would probably explain its insistence on harbouring the Muslim Brotherhood and play­ing nice with Iran.

This policy may turn out to be a careful chess manoeuvre on the regional power board and less of an endorsement of the Muslim Broth­erhood’s methods and of Iran’s regional play. However, it is giving birth to measures and decisions harmful to neighbouring countries.

Let us suppose that the Qatari rulers are convinced that the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s philosophy and goals are the right prescription for the ills of all human society. It is rather peculiar, then, that the Qatari rulers have not declared their alle­giance to the Brotherhood or opted for its social and political model. Why not declare to the world that the Muslim Brotherhood has found a geopolitical space and is repre­sented by a country with member­ships in the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation?

Common sense says that the Qa­tari leadership should experiment with the Muslim Brotherhood’s model in Qatar itself. Surely the experiment will not face any com­plicated problems or unsolvable issues. It will certainly be different from the Brotherhood’s experiment in populous Gaza, where electricity supply is a daily problem and where the locals are not allowed to fish, not even for sardines.

It is true that the Brotherhood’s revised internal regulations will not allow Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al- Thani to become the organisation’s supreme leader. He’s not qualified academically, is underage and has not been an “active brother” for no less than 15 years. He also needs to be elected by the Brotherhood’s Shura Council.

Then, however, Sheikh Tamim could easily scold the Brother­hood’s venerable leaders and remind them that the last revision of the rules dates to 1948; 70 years is enough time to reduce huge boulders to pebbles but apparently not enough time to make minor adjustments to the Brotherhood’s organisation.

It is paradoxical that Doha refuses to change the nature of the regime in Qatar, yet it is willing to brave all kinds of storms and to sacrifice life and limb in defence of the Mus­lim Brothers. Perhaps it has other agendas.

If the Qatari rulers cannot espouse the Brotherhood’s power model, nor can they impose it on the harmonious peaceful Qatari society, why do they insist on presenting it as the miracle cure to other societies where diversity, modernity and democracy have become a way of life?

Qatar’s mere reluctance to express its concern about Iran’s expansionism in the Middle East is a huge step back from Qatar’s initial support for the revolution in Syria. In this context and in the final anal­ysis, what the Qatari regime offered the Syrian revolution does not go beyond picks and axes to ruin it and ruin its image. So, why does Doha continue to back extremist militias in Syria and feed insurgency in other countries?

Countries everywhere are stand­ing up to radicalism in a life-or-death battle. The radical factions themselves are incapable of getting along with each other and are in the middle of internecine slaughtering. So what does Qatar hope to reap from its current policies?