Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Doha is digging its hole too deep and its people may soon dislike it

What the Arabic press are saying about the crisis between Doha and the Gulf states
The Abu Samra border crossing to Saudi Arabia, in Qatar, has been deserted since the border was shut. REUTERS/Tom Finn
The Abu Samra border crossing to Saudi Arabia, in Qatar, has been deserted since the border was shut. REUTERS/Tom Finn

The Gulf has plunged into its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, interfering with their internal affairs and maintaining relations with Iran.

Writing in the London-based pan-Arab daily paper Asharq Al Awsat, Saudi columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashed said the four countries are adamant on divorce this time around, as Qatar has already failed to keep its promises back in 2014.

“A look at Doha’s reaction following the quartet’s announcement of the severance of ties with Qatar on 5 June 2017 shows that it is Qatar rather than its neighbours who cannot afford being cut off,” Al Rashed added.

He then wondered about the solution to this crisis.

“Qatar wants to resort to mediations and make pledges like before, and perhaps change its modus operandi, but it will continue stirring up ill feeling against the regimes of all four countries.”

Following the 2014 Riyadh Declaration demanding that Qatar end incitement though the media, Al Jazeera was apparently toned down, but other channels and online newspapers were secretly established to take over the task.

Moreover, Qatar deported a number of Gulf opponents only to have them naturalised in Turkey and London and it continued funding them through secret networks established within these countries.

“Doha is dealing with the new crisis by going back to its old ways, but its neighbours have learnt their lesson and want to live in peace without Qatar in the picture,” the writer noted.

He concluded that Doha has had its options narrowed down to giving in to all of the quartet’s demands or living in complete isolation.

Arabic-language commentator Salem Salmeem Al Nuaimi saw that Qatar wants to turn the tables and extend the conflict to affect economic development and oil and gas prices now that Iran and Turkey are involved.

But, he argued, Qatar seems to forget that political isolation and economic pressure will most certainly cause unrest among its people and threaten its regime.

“Doha will not make significant compromises and the US diplomacy will mediate alongside the European Union to resolve the crisis,” Al Nuaimi wrote in Aletihad, Arabic-language sister publication of The National.

On the other hand, the writer noted that Ankara has long been eyeing a military base in Qatar.

“Even though Turkey maintains fruitful ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, its foreign policy as well as industrial and commercial interests are not aligned with these two countries.

“Moreover, both Ankara and Doha support regional Islamic groups, not to mention Ankara’s express intention to become the region’s Sunni capital,” he said.

According to Al Nuaimi, Qatar believes that it can get out of the situation with minimum damage thanks to its diversified foreign policy and economic partnerships.

“In parallel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia will continue escalating their demands alongside Egypt and Bahrain, especially after Qatar denounced the Doha-linked and -funded terror blacklist they have recently issued,” he said.

The writer saw these moves as a telling indicator of Doha’s preparations for a long-term breakup.

But he wondered how Qatar will overcome its heavy reliance on its neighbours for trade and travel in and out of the region.

“Most of its food imports pass through its sole land border with Saudi Arabia, which has been closed, not to mention the ships carrying food to Doha that stop in Abu Dhabi and Dubai first.”

Al Nuaimi concluded that the conflict with Qatar has turned from a spat into a direct threat to the stability and security of the Gulf region.

* Jennifer Attieh