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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Doha's bluster cannot conceal its isolated position

The Arab quartet's boycott of Qatar has produced tangible results that are beneficial to the region and the wider world

The voices ranged against Qatar have multiplied over the past four months. Reuters / Naseem Zeitoon
The voices ranged against Qatar have multiplied over the past four months. Reuters / Naseem Zeitoon

Qatar’s defiant posturing in the face of the boycott of Doha by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain can prompt questions about the utility of the quartet’s move. Show us the results, the cynics might say. The quartet can do no better than point a finger at Qatar’s behaviour behind the scenes. For if you peel away the patina of intransigence that Qatar has clad itself in, what you will find is a state that in actuality is yielding to the international pressure generated by the quartet even as its puts on a risible show of resistance for the consumption of its own citizens.

Qatar appears to have believed at the start of the boycott that the quartet would soon tire of the whole business and that Doha could quickly return to things as they were. It was wholly unprepared for the resolve and patience with which the quartet has pursued its objective. The quartet’s determination has produced results that are positive not just for the region but also for the wider world. In June, the quartet released a list of 59 people and a dozen groups it said were linked to Qatar and involved in terrorism. Doha dismissed the list – only to find the names of multiple organisations and individuals issued by the quartet appear on a similar list put forth by the US Treasury Department. Qatar, having defended or denied connection to those groups and people when the quartet brought them to its attention, was compelled to perform an about-turn and puts its signature on a GCC document acknowledging them as part of a terror nexus.

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After US president Donald Trump charged Qatar with being a “funder of terrorism at a very high level” in response to the quartet’s decision to sever ties with it, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson flew to Doha with a memorandum on countering terror financing. The agreement vindicated the quartet, and the voices ranged against Qatar have multiplied since then. The controversial decision to grant Qatar the hosting rights for the 2022 Fifa World Cup has now matured into a scandal that threatens to soil the spirit of football. A comprehensive investigation into allegations of corruption has begun.

It’s not just the US and the Arab quartet that are worried about Doha. Distinguished European voices are now expressing their dismay. In an article published last week in Germany’s largest newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the former German Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning called Fifa’s decision to host the World Cup in Qatar “despicable” and intolerable”. Mr Löning’s criticism is echoed by other human rights campaigners, and it is far from clear that Qatar will play host to visiting football teams in 2022. All the bluster emanating from Doha cannot conceal the fact that, since the quartet’s boycott began in June, Qatar has been forced to account for its deeds.

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