President Donald Trump meets with the Emir of Qatar during their bilateral meeting, Sunday, May 21, 2017, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead) President Donald Trump meets with the Emir of Qatar during their bilateral meeting, Sunday, May 21, 2017, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Opinion: The new ‘illusory’ implications of Qatar’s devious policies

Sat, Mar. 3, 2018
CAIRO – 28 February 2018: Using its high-ranked officials as mouthpieces, Qatar is still using a devious political discourse that is constructed around contradictions and repetitions of the vocabulary of the Qatari crisis. What such elusive discourse indicates is that Qatar is not serious about reaching a point where a reasonable dialogue can be constructed upon new foundations and with fresh data, and is not willing to forego the policy of obstinacy on any level. It is clear that this line of action has been designed and forged inside the ruling family with obvious coordination with Iran, and is being repeated and reiterated with the same concepts, vocabulary and terminology. But there are several points that entail Qatar’s current policy.

First, Qatar does not realize that continuing to handle the crisis in such a devious manner, a manner that is unprecedented in Arab Gulf relations, could have serious implications on Qatari people in the near future, a matter that Qatar’s ruling family is taking too lightly as if the people of Qatar are unimportant and are not a priority of any kind. The failure of Qatar’s ruling family to understand that Qatari people have rights and ambitions, that they have an opinion, a say and a perspective, has led to the growth of opposition inside and outside Qatar. The issues of Qatari opposition are an internal matter, and Arab countries boycotting Qatar do not wish to interfere in Qatar’s internal affairs, in spite of Qatar’s policy of interference in the internal affairs of many parts of the world, and not just the Arab world.

Second, up to this very moment, Qatar has not revised its policies in the region; even after all these months that have passed in crisis, it refuses to see the facts. The only way for Qatar to return to the Arab alliance is to take measures that would revolutionize the state’s methods, to harbor the conviction that the desired change is meant for the welfare of Qatari people as well as for the stability of the region as a whole, and to accept the governing principles of the crisis handling strategy which it views as demands, and which the boycotting Arab Quartet sees as steps for convergence and not for pressure as Qatari officials believe.

Contrary to Qatar’s misconceptions on the matter, the resolution of the crisis will not be in seeking refuge with the United States, nor in making military deals or expanding the Udayd base. It will not come through developing its strategic dialogues, nor by turning to great powers and investing political money for the purpose of influencing a change in the tides of support for Qatar from inside Arab countries and in decision-making circles in the United States and the European Union. Thus, Qatar’s strategies in handling the crisis and in coping with it are not exactly sound or even helpful, even if the idea that the huge financial losses endured by Qatar are not affecting it was true, which it isn’t. Qatar is enduring heavy losses for which the Qatari people are paying dearly, especially since their resources are being drained and their wealth ripped off. This matter should be regarded with great care, especially with the money market, the arms market, the circles of influence, media companies, and the lobbies of pressure trying to play a significant role that is costly for Qatar.

Qatari minister of foreign affairs is resuming his media and political rhetoric saying that the U.S. administration is not making any attempts to resolve the crisis, and that any dialogue with the Arab quartet countries will not be on the expense of Qatar’s sovereignty, and that the quartet has been seeking waves of future escalation by attempting to cause the Qatari regime to fall and to reinstate another. What is the purpose of such political frivolity? Is such an approach befitting those who manage Qatar’s foreign affairs? And what’s new, if such statements are not any different from the ones which have been recurring throughout the past months of crisis?

According to sources inside the U.S., the American administration is right now designing a plan which will probably not be executed in the present time, and which was indirectly proposed during and after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the region. The plan is to call for a summit in Camp David to converge the points of view of the different parties, but such a plan is not a priority for the present administration for a good reason; from a purely pragmatic and utilitarian perspective, the U.S. is benefiting from the tug of war between the two sides.

This is evidently seen in the recent U.S. approach in developing the foundations of the American-Qatari dialogue to be based on the principles of cost, expense and revenue. Therefore, Qatar has placed a bet in this direction; in other words, it is dependent on its American ally who is completely supportive of the present Qatari approach, even if the U.S. administration claims to be trying to make balance between the two sides. In addition, the present state of relations between Egypt and the U.S. is unclear, and is going through a phase of push and pull in their issues of mutual interest and in some of the issue of the region as well. Therefore, and owing to all the previous reasons, an Egyptian-Gulf-Qatari summit next May might not be on the U.S. administration’s list of priorities, especially since it has an agenda filled with other crucial issues.

In the context of a Qatari assent to the proclaimed orientations of the boycotting quartet, what are the expected scenarios that we have left? Especially since those orientations are governed by standards and criteria that are not to be changed or conceded, particularly because the present state of affairs in the Arab world is one of constant pushing and pulling. Whatever is going to be proposed before the upcoming Arab summit in Riyadh has to be in the framework of the aforementioned standards and criteria.

The Riyadh summit is going to be one of supreme and strategic importance, not only because of the measures that are to be taken for the resolution of the Palestinian issue, but also for the discussions that will be made about the Qatari crisis along with the developments in the Arab scene as a whole, which is witnessing instability and which needs a complete revision of its moves in the coming period. And therefore the question remains: should the conclusion of the Qatari crisis be postponed, since Qatar’s policies have not really changed, and since there are other Arab issues which are higher priorities and which require greater attention? Can Qatar be given an opportunity to revise its policies through phased actions that will be checked and assessed, and after which a new foundation for dialogue can be built through the American party that still endorses Qatar? It’s a proposition and an attempt that we ought to make with a country that still supports and funds terrorism.

In light of the present data, refraining from making such a progressive step could lead to more tremors in how Qatar is handling the crisis on all levels. Meanwhile, we are yet to arrive at a specific framework in which we can start to seek a solution for the crisis and to put an end to Qatar’s evasive stances represented by a devious political discourse that claims the absence of a crisis in the first place, and that Qatar is going to be part of the upcoming summit regardless of where it is going to be held.

In all cases, we want Qatar to restore its place in the Arab world, and to encourage it to take bold steps, and to abstain from the present political maneuvering and illegitimate practices; after all these are dangerous times for the Arab region, full of political and strategic challenges and risks, risks that should be prepared for by real and calculated measures, and not by half-solutions and fake policies.

Professor Tarek Fahmy is the Head of Political and Strategic Unit at the National Center for Middle East Studies, a Professor of Strategic Thinking at Nasser Military Academy, a Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo, and a member of the Israeli Center Zagazig University. His expertise on the Middle East has provided him the opportunity to participate in a number of academic conferences in cities around the world such as Gaza, Washington DC, Denmark, Berlin, and Jordan, as well as, providing analysis on current events in a number of Egyptian and international media outlets.
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