Qatar spurns chance to mend Gulf ties

It’s a pity that Tamim stub­bornly re­fused to ad­dress the con­cerns of the anti-ter­ror quar­tet

Gulf News - - Opinion - 60 Min­utes

very Sun­day evening, the CBS news pro­gramme

of­fers a unique take on cur­rent af­fairs with rel­e­vant peo­ple. It’s a pity it wasted air­time broad­cast­ing an in­ter­view with Shaikh Tamim Bin Ha­mad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, who wasted an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the con­cerns of the quar­tet of anti-ter­ror na­tions who are try­ing to stop his gov­ern­ment from aid­ing and abet­ting those who fund, sup­port and spread ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism. Since early June, the UAE, Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and Egypt have frozen diplo­matic ties, iso­lated Qatar fi­nan­cially and shut their re­spec­tive air and sea cor­ri­dors to air­craft and ves­sels reg­is­tered in Qatar. The quar­tet have is­sued 13 de­mands to en­sure Qatar lives up to its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments in fight­ing ter­ror­ism and those who spread ex­trem­ism across the Gulf and the wider re­gion.

Shaikh Tamim’s in­ter­view was sim­ply self-serv­ing and he missed a timely and im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to ex­tend an olive branch to the quar­tet. In the past, Shaikh Tamim and his co­horts have failed to ad­dress the 13 de­mands and, since June, have passed on ev­ery rea­son­able op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the real is­sue — end­ing the threat of ter­ror, root­ing out ex­trem­ism, end­ing the sup­port of those who help prop­a­gate ex­trem­ist views, and stop­ping the in­va­sive can­cer of sedi­tion.

Since June, Shaikh Tamim over­sees a na­tion that is fac­ing a liq­uid­ity short­fall, in­creas­ing food short­ages, an ero­sion in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions with a broad coali­tion of na­tions who gen­uinely act against ex­trem­ists and ter­ror­ism, and a sharp de­cline in its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. With Qatar now iso­lated to the point that it has cosied up even closer to Tehran, the quar­tet are fo­cus­ing on the real is­sues at hand — root­ing out ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ists — and un­til Doha is gen­uinely in­ter­ested in ad­dress­ing the 13 de­mands, that’s just fine. If and when Shaikh Tamim is ready to ad­dress the is­sues — and he showed on 60 Min­utes he’s not — the quar­tet are there to talk. But the 13 de­mands are non-ne­go­tiable and in­di­vis­i­ble.

Qatar’s ruler has made it clear all of the de­mands are redline is­sues for him, from re­fus­ing to deal with the vit­riol and sedi­tious pro­pa­ganda aired on Al Jazeera, to fail­ing to ac­knowl­edge the dan­gers posed by Iran’s med­dling from Ye­men to Le­banon, Iran and Syria and its desta­bil­i­sa­tion in the Gulf. His ac­tions and lack of words have cast a long shadow over the GCC and the up­com­ing sum­mit in Kuwait — and more the pity.

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