Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani – File photo/Mohamed Zain
CAIRO – 5 June 2018: One year ago, Qatar has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis after multiple Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support for Islamist groups.
The Arab quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the Qatari peninsula. The Arab quartet issued 13 demands to Doha – then shortened to six principles - including closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base.
infographic on the difference between "blockade" and "boycott" - Egypt Today/Ahmed Hussein
The four Arab countries severed relations with Doha over what they say was its close links to Iran, which has been accused of interfering in Arab countries’ affairs and being behind terrorist plots. Doha restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran amid the crisis.
One major disagreement between Qatar and its neighbors has been the former’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed as a terrorist group by the boycotting countries.
Since the eruption of the crisis, Qatar showed no intention of solving the strife. However, Qatar placed several people and entities on its terrorism list in March, including several Qatari nationals already blacklisted by Arab quartet that accused Doha of supporting militants. Qatar’s issuance of a terror list of 19 individuals and eight entities has done little to impress decision-makers in the four Arab countries.
Over the past 12 months, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, has stripped the nationality of some Qatari tribal leaders and frozen the assets of others over their opposition to the Qatari regime. They included Sheikh Talib bin Mohamed Bin Lahoum bin Sherim, leader of Al-Murra tribe; and Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.
In light of the growing concern that the country may witness a tribal revolution to overthrow the current regime, Sheikh Tamim has put the tribesmen under security and economic pressure using Qatari state institutions.
The pressure exerted by Sheikh Tamim's intelligence and security agencies came after a number of senior tribal leaders in Saudi Arabia stressed their support for the Gulf blockade imposed on Qatar.
In response, many tribes, such as Al-Qahtan, Banu Yaam and Al-Murrah in Saudi Arabia gathered frequently on the border with Qatar to formulate a roadmap to face the Qatari Emir’s violations against Qatar’s tribal opponents. Social media users circulated photos and videos showing the tribal protests to support the Arab quartet.
Major Opposition leaders:
Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali
Saudi Arabia said Thursday it is reopening its border with Qatar to allow Qataris to attend the hajj amid a monthslong rift between the neighboring countries that led to both sides trading accusations of politicizing the ritual – Press photo
Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali is the second son of late Emir Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, the grandson of the Emir of Qatar, Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, and the brother of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Thani, who was overthrown by his cousin Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani, grandfather of Prince Tamim bin Hamad on February 22, 1972.
Sheikh Abdullah used his Twitter account to extend his appreciation to the Saudi king; he also referred to a special operations room staffed by Saudis and supervised by Sheikh Abdullah to cater to Qataris’ affairs while countries’ ties are severed.
Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani
Sheikh Sultan Bin Suhaim Al Thani – press photo
Qatari royal Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani, a son of the first-ever foreign affairs minister of Doha, participated in the Al-Qahtan tribe meeting. The prince has boycotted the Qatari regime since the outbreak of the Gulf crisis in June. Earlier, he released a televised speech where he criticized the Qatari leadership’s stance towards terror groups in the region.
Economic effects of Qatar crisis
Qatari opposition website, Qatari Leaks, released an infographic on Sunday showing the reasons behind Doha’s drop to the 47th place in the global prosperity index 2017. The British Legatum Institution’s Prosperity Index 2017 revealed that Doha has witnessed a downturn in economic and investment environment standards due to the country’s failure to pay its dues.
Moreover, Qatar's ability to host the 2022 World Cup became debatable following sanctions imposed by some Arab states on the Gulf country; in addition to the labor abuse scandal that threatened its ability to hold football’s top tournament.
The football associations of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, the U.A.E. and Bahrain officially demanded FIFA to remove Qatar as hosts of the tournament, in light of accusations of funding terrorism in the region.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino told Swiss website, The Local, on Saturday that a number of Arab countries had written to the FIFA to apply Article 85 of the FIFA Code, which allows the cancellation of Qatar hosting the World Cup in case of emergency.
The sanctions imposed on Qatar can negatively affect the construction of sports facilities planned to receive the international tournament.
According to media reports, a number of international construction companies involved in the establishment of the sports facilities are allegedly planning to halt their work until the crisis settles.
Furthermore, the recent decline in global oil and gas prices shadows the Qatari financial allocations for hosting the World Cup. Prior to the latest crisis, the officials had initially anticipated spending $200 billion on the construction process. But they were forced to reduce infrastructure portions of that budget by between 40 percent and 50 percent. The thing that could delay the execution of projects related to the tournament.
Another challenge is the systematic labor abuses monitored by international organizations on the Qatari territories. Amnesty International revealed in a report published in 2016, called “The ugly side of the beautiful game”, widespread and systematic human rights abuses suffered by migrant workers employed in building stadiums and other infrastructure due to be used in the 2022 World Cup finals.
The report was based on interviews with 231 migrant construction workers falling under "kafala" sponsorship system, under which migrant workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer's permission.
The workers complained of violations of basic rights. Some of them were forced to pay exorbitant recruitment fees to agents of the companies that hired them. Others lived in conditions unfit for human habitation, and had wages withheld and passports confiscated.
In response, FIFA released a statement saying that since 2011 it had been meeting key groups, including Amnesty International, to discuss consistent and sustained implementation of fair working conditions on World cup sites.
Qatar seeks help of Iran
Qatar has allowed Iranian military troops to deploy across the country in a kind of provocation to the Arab quartet; instead of supporting Arab efforts to resolve the crisis, according to political expert.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were reportedly sent to protect the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani inside his palace, raising an unprecedented wave of popular discontent in the Gulf country.
Axis of Evil - Infographics by Ahmed Hussein
According to sources in Qatar, the Revolutionary Guards arrived in Qatar under the cover of training, amid media reports saying that Doha allowed Iranian elements to stay on the Qatari-Saudi border.
Sheikh Tamim’s earlier statements, in which he said there was “no wisdom in harboring hostility toward Iran,” confirmed previous reports that discussed in detail the tight security relationship between both countries, despite the existing tensions between Doha and most members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Political experts believe that Tehran will not leave Doha even if the Qatari crisis settled, stressing that Iran will not waste this chance offered by Tamim to establish a military base on an Arab Gulf territory.
How the crisis can end?
To prove it is serious about joining in the fight against terrorism, analysts said, Qatar needs to take several measures, including those specified in the Quartet’s list last June.
Qatar has become a haven for Islamists, including Egyptian leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many of those who have sought refuge in Qatar are wanted in Egypt and, in some cases, have already been convicted in absentia. Cairo says Muslim Brotherhood leaders hiding in Qatar are destabilizing Egypt by financing terrorist attacks and inciting members of their movement to break the law.
Qatar allegedly finances militant activities in Arab countries by sponsoring charities that are thought to be covers for terrorists, analysts said.
The Arab quartet has specified the role being played by Qatar’s media in spreading fake news and fomenting unrest.
The Qatari news channel Al Jazeera has been criticized for its reporting in several Arab countries, including on the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi insurgency and Iran’s expanding role in Yemen.