Arabs turn on Qatar over Ha­mas

ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JOHN BRADLEY

AS DIPLOMACY in­ten­si­fies over Gaza, one lit­tlere­ported meet­ing last week — be­tween se­nior Saudi officials and Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Al-Thani — could turn out to be the game-changer.

Sheikh Al-Thani has given sanc­tu­ary to Ha­mas leader Khaled Mashaal, and funds the Al-Jazeera net­work. He bankrolls the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, too, and is best bud­dies with its un­hinged “spir­i­tual guide”, Yousef Al-Qaradawi.

Mr Al-Thani made the trip to the Saudi cap­i­tal Jeddah fol­low­ing re­ports that the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC) — a mil­i­tary and eco­nomic pow­er­house com­prised of the six ma­jor Arab oil skeikhdoms — was about to ex­pel his coun­try.

For historic rea­sons, the Saudi and Qatari dy­nas­ties loath each other, and King Ab­dul­lah re­fused to meet Sheikh Al-Thani.

Just a week ear­lier, King Ab­dul­lah had trav­elled to Cairo to en­dorse the Egyp­tian cease­fire pro­posal. It was surely Qatar’s con­tin­ued sup­port for Ha­mas, and its re­fusal to pres­sure Mr Mashaal into ac­cept­ing Egypt’s cease­fire terms, that led to the Saudi royal snub and the threat to have Qatar kicked out of the GCC.

That King Ab­dul­lah’s se­cu­rity ad­viser, Prince Ban­dar, and Prince Miteb (who heads the Na­tional Guard), were present at the meet­ing, points to the broader con­text.

Prince Ban­dar was ini­tially the con­tact guy be­tween the House of Saud and rad­i­cal ji­hadist groups fight­ing in Syria; while Prince Miteb’s Na­tional Guard is re­spon­si­ble for quelling dis­sent in­side the Wah­habi king­dom.

With the Saudis hav­ing lost con­trol of the ji­hadis, the new caliphate ruled by the Is­lamic State is turn­ing its at­ten­tion to Jor­dan and the Arab monar­chies.

Saudi Ara­bia has now banned its na­tion­als from fight­ing in Syria and Iraq.

How­ever, the Is­lamic State has con­sid­er­able sup­port through­out the Ara­bian Penin­sula, where Al-Jazeera’s sen­sa­tion­al­ist cov­er­age of Pales­tinian civil­ian deaths is pro­vok­ing uni­ver­sal out­rage.

As the Is­lamic State con­tin­ues its string of mil­i­tary vic­to­ries, the oil monar­chies fear a per­fect ji­hadist storm may be on the hori­zon. The last thing the Arab states want is for anger over Is­rael’s war to boil over, amid calls for ji­had in the lo­cal mosques.

Mean­while, Iran and Hizbol­lah have pre­dictably of­fered the Pales­tini­ans moral sup­port. But given that Ha­mas sup­ports the Sunni ji­hadis slaugh­ter­ing Shia in Syria and Iraq, and that Qatar-based Al-Qaradawi re­cently called for geno­cide against the Shia, their words will not trans­late into ac­tion.

Any­way, both coun­tries are so bogged down fight­ing the Is­lamic State that open­ing up another mil­i­tary front against Is­rael is out of the ques­tion.

Ha­mas’s only other re­main­ing ally, Turkey, also has its hands tied mil­i­tar­ily, be­ing a mem­ber of Nato.

All of which sig­nals a po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic long-term de­cline for Ha­mas, how­ever the cur­rent war ends. John R Bradley is the au­thor of four books on the Mid­dle East

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES/ PA

The Queen with Qatar’s for­mer ruler, Sheikh Ha­mad bin Khal­ifa Al-Thani. Be­hind: the Qatar-owned Shard in Lon­don

PHOTO: AP

Khaled Mashaal

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