1 Year of Arab Quartet boycott: Is Qatar willing to end the crisis?



Tue, 05 Jun 2018 - 01:59 GMT


Tue, 05 Jun 2018 - 01:59 GMT

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 16, 2018. REUTERS

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 16, 2018. REUTERS

CAIRO – 5 June 2018: On June 5, 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain decided to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, after years of unstable relations, and implicit attacks on Qatar. Qatar was accused by the quartet of funding and promoting terrorism and intervening in the domestic affairs of the quartet countries.

Subsequently, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, was handed a list of demands by the quartet, which he has to meet in order to end the crisis, and declare his country safe. However, Qatar denied all accusations.

Instead, the Qatari government decided to deepen the crisis by accusing the Arab countries of suppressing opposition, creating humanitarian crises, intimidating citizens and using media to promote propaganda to discredit Qatar.

“The crisis’s goal has become clear to everyone; it is to interfere in the internal affairs of Qatar. This is a red line and is unacceptable to us,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani said in an interview with Al-Haqiqa in late November.

In brief, the quartet had asked Qatar to meet a list of 13 demands in order for a dialogue to begin.

1- Curb relations with Iran.

2- Cut ties to terrorist organizations.

3- Shut down Al-Jazeera News network.

4- Shutter Qatari-funded news outlets.

5- End Turkey military presence in Qatar.

6- Stop funding individuals and groups designated by the quartet as terrorists.

7- Send terrorist figures back to their countries.

8- Stop interfering in the Arab countries’ domestic affairs.

9- Stop contacting political opposition in the quartet.

10- Compensate the quartet for financial and life losses caused by Qatar.

11- Align with Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically.

12- Agree to all demands within 10 days.

13- Consent to monthly and annual audit.

Following more than a month of Qatari stubbornness, a modified list of six demands only was handed to the Qatari government in July 2017. According to the list, Qatar has been asked to commit to combat extremism and terrorism in all its forms and to prevent financing terrorism and providing its leaders with safe havens.

The list also stipulates that Qatar should prohibit all acts of incitement and all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred and violence. Furthermore, Qatar has to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of states and from supporting illegal entities, according to the list.

The demands also include the full commitment to the Riyadh Agreement 2013 as well as the supplementary agreement and its executive mechanism for 2014, within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, in addition to the commitment to all the outcomes of the Arab-Islamic-U.S. Summit held in Riyadh in May 2017.

Officials from the four countries considered Qatar's denial of the charges as a proof that Qatar is not willing to end the crisis. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said in November that Qatar still has a way to go, “but they cannot fix their problem unless they acknowledge that they have a problem.”

“I believe the steps the four countries have taken are now forcing Qatar to begin acting,” Jubeir stated in an interview with CNN in late November.

Qatar alleged fight against terrorism

Commenting on hopes for compromise, Jubeir said, “When it comes to terrorism, extremism and harboring fugitives, there can be no compromise.”

Although Qatar has denied supporting and funding terrorism, it seemingly started to abide by the quartet’s demand to combat terrorism.

In March, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) in the Qatari Ministry of Interior announced the placement of 19 individuals including 11 Qataris, four Egyptians, two Jordanians and two Saudi Arabians on the terror list.

Qatari Abdel Rahman Omair Rashd al-Nuaimi, placed on the sanctions list by the U.S. Treasury for terrorism financing, has also been placed on the Qatari list. According to the U.S., Nuaimi supported al-Qaeda in Syria with large sums of money, and also financed al- Qaeda in Iraq in 2001.

The Qatari list also included eight entities, including the Islamic State's Sinai Province in Egypt and Al-Ihsan Charitable Society in Yemen. Al-Ihsan is a charitable organization, allegedly led by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and supported by Abdullah Mohammed al-Yazidi.

Commenting on Qatari terror list, the United Arab Emirates' Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that the terror list Qatar has issued proves Qatari support for terrorism.

“Qatar confirms the evidence against it, and asserts that its support for terrorism and extremism is the essence of the Qatari crisis.”

In an interview with Egypt Today, Former Egyptian Ambassador to Qatar Mohamed al-Manisi commented on the list saying, “Based on our experience with Qatar which refers to Qatar’s unclear stance, it always says one thing and does another. All we need is just time to make sure that this announcement is true and would come into effect.”

In this regard, Manisi added that if Qatar’s announcement is serious, it would be a positive step toward implementing the 13 demands of the Arab Quartet. However, it would not end the boycott as it is just one out of 13 demands, he remarked.

The Qatari significant support for the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which Egypt designated as a terrorist group, is one of the major disagreements between Qatar and the quartet, especially Egypt.

Qatari royal, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani, repeated in April his warning to the Qatari people of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political dominance over Qatar’s ruling regime that insisted on pursuing the same policies that led to the Gulf crisis. Earlier in May, Sheikh Sultan dispraised the Qatari regime for adopting “stubbornness,” saying: “A year passed since the boycott [took place; a year] through which my country lost a lot, and grew farther away from its neighbors.”

Turkish military presence in Qatar enhanced

Although one of the 13 demands issued to Qatar was to end Turkey’s military presence in Qatari lands, and terminate joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar, the two countries apparently acted indifferently to the firm demand.

In March 2018, Turkish Ambassador to Qatar, Fikret Ozer, told reporters at a press conference in Doha that Turkey is considering the deployment of naval and air forces troops in Doha.

Turkish troops arrive at their military base in Doha on June 23, 2017. REUTERS

The new troops will be added to the troops that are already stationed in Doha, Ozer said, adding that the deployment of the troops is according to the agreement signed between Qatar and Turkey in 2014. The first batch of Turkish troops arrived at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in 2015.

U.S. National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster underlined at a conference in Washington, D.C., in December 2017, that Turkey and Qatar are playing a key role in advancing the radical Islamist ideology in the Muslim community.

McMaster explained that these two countries are carrying out their hostile policies to fund and support terrorism and extremism through charities, madrassas and other social organizations, according to U.S. newspaper, The Algemeiner.

Qatari-Iranian relations strengthened

The quartet urged Qatar to expel the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and curb relations with Iran which is the enemy of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Israel.

The Houthi militants in Yemen, allegedly backed by the Iranian regime, fired some 119 missiles targeting Saudi Arabian lands, some of which targeted the holy city of Mecca, King Salman of Saudi Arabia said, during the 29th Arab League Summit in April.

Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs said in late December, that his country disagrees with some of Iran’s policies. However, it will not engage in a war with Iran. “No wisdom in harboring hostility toward Iran,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad said earlier.

In November, 2017, Qatar, Iran and Turkey signed a transportation agreement to ease trilateral trade. The U.S. has been concerned since the quartet boycott that Qatar may strengthen its relations with Iran, in order to create alternative markets.

Qatar emir
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting in Doha on October 3, 2017. REUTERS

According to political experts, Qatar allowed Iranian military troops to deploy across the country. Units of Iran’s most powerful security force Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were reportedly sent to protect Sheikh Tamim inside his palace. News circulated in October that U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

After all, Qatar’s reaction to the demands of the four countries is not satisfying. However, negligence would not expectedly help to solve the crisis, because it seems that the boycotting countries, especially Saudi Arabia which leads the boycott, will not give up on any of the listed demands.

In September, Jubeir said that there is no harm in case the Qatar-Gulf crisis continues for two more years, Reuters reported.



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