Bringing Qatar back from open conflict with its brothers
The dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbors hurts everyone involved
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.