Bring­ing Qatar back from open con­flict with its broth­ers

The dis­pute be­tween Qatar and its Arab neigh­bors hurts every­one in­volved

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Ha­mad Al-Amer

The dis­pute be­tween Qatar and its Arab neigh­bors hurts every­one in­volved. Qatar had agreed to co­op­er­ate with the other gov­ern­ments in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emi­rates. In­stead, they are in­volved in a boy­cott that verges on open war­fare.

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani, was widely ex­pected to change Qatari pol­icy and stop sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and con­sort­ing with the re­gion’s big­gest en­emy, Iran. Yet, the al­liances have con­tin­ued. Qatar has con­tin­ued to har­bor dan­ger­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions that threaten peace-lov­ing peo­ple not just in the Arab re­gion but in the heart of Europe as well.

The Qatari lead­er­ship has in­sisted on main­tain­ing po­si­tions con­trary to the prin­ci­ples of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC), the con­fed­er­a­tion of Arab na­tions in the Ara­bian Gulf. They fu­eled the un­for­tu­nate events in the King­dom of Bahrain in Fe­bru­ary 2011 and con­tinue to play a cen­tral role in sab­o­tag­ing peace and se­cu­rity in Manama. They have also re­neged on their agree­ment to help es­tab­lish a fund to sup­port Bahrain and Oman, a fund that other GCC na­tions have gladly con­trib­uted to.

Qatar has spent lav­ishly on me­dia, in­clud­ing

its Al Jazeera net­work, to fab­ri­cate news about Bahrain, in­clud­ing re­ports about a sup­pos­edly in­ef­fec­tive poverty pro­gram and breaches of hu­man rights. The net­work, founded by Qatar two decades ago, bol­stered the cause of Bahrain op­po­si­tion lead­ers and even en­cour­aged Bahrai­nis to em­i­grate to Qatar il­le­gally.

But worst of all, Qatar is at the cen­ter of ter­ror fi­nance. It main­tains close re­la­tion­ships with armed mili­tias in Libya, Iraq and Bahrain. Qataris have sent air­craft loaded with weapons to ISIS and the mili­tias of Fajr Libya and the no­to­ri­ous Nasra Front. They also back the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which is the bane of many Arab na­tions, es­pe­cially Egypt.

Th­ese con­nec­tions are well doc­u­mented. The Bri­tish news­pa­per The Sun­day Tele­graph re­vealed a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Qatar and ex­trem­ist groups in the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing the ter­ror­ist groups that were be­hind the killing of Cop­tic Chris­tians in Libya in Fe­bru­ary 2015. Qatar was also be­hind the An­sar al-Sharia group sus­pected of ar­rang­ing the killings of the U.S. am­bas­sador in Libya and the at­tempted as­sas­si­na­tion of his Bri­tish coun­ter­part.

The head of the Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment is­sued a stern warn­ing to Qatar, say­ing: “Doha has to choose its friends or bear the con­se­quences.” An­thony Gel­lis from the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Buck­ing­ham ex­plained that “to find ter­ror­ism, you have to track the funds that you fund and cur­rently it seems that Qatar is the fi­nancier of ter­ror­ism.”

Nu­mer­ous doc­u­ments com­plied by U.S. au­thor­i­ties con­firm Qatar’s in­volve­ment in sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and its fi­nanc­ing of weaponry used by ter­ror­ists around the world. Ter­ror­ist watch lists com­piled by the U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tain nu­mer­ous Qataris.

The un­for­tu­nate stand­off in the Ara­bian Gulf is the re­sult of reck­less Qatari poli­cies that dis­re­gard agree­ments made over many years by Qatari lead­ers to other GCC gov­ern­ments. The Qataris’ wealth, based on vast re­serves of nat­u­ral gas, has clouded their lead­ers’ vi­sion and made them be­lieve, falsely, that they can dom­i­nate the Mid­dle East and per­haps else­where around the globe. This is ir­re­spon­si­ble and delu­sional.

But the time is right for this mis­take to be re­versed. The boy­cott of Qatar is a warn­ing to the Qatari lead­er­ship that must be heeded. Qatar has a golden op­por­tu­nity to be­come a real leader in the re­gion. But it can’t lead alone. It must re­turn to its roots and work to­gether with its Arab broth­ers as it has promised to do. If it does so, the fu­ture will be peace­ful and se­cure. The al­ter­na­tive is con­flict that, sadly, bor­ders on open war among Arab neigh­bors.

Ha­mad Al-Amer is for­mer Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union in Brus­sels and un­der­sec­re­tary for GCC and re­gional af­fairs at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, King­dom of Bahrain.


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