Judge Qatar by the tone of its voice
The resolve of the quartet to hold Qatar to account will not be weakened
Does Qatar have any interest in resolving the crisis it has provoked in the region? Its conduct leaves us in no doubt as to its intentions. Doha’s behaviour has gone from bad to worse since the Arab quartet – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – called on Doha to abandon its sponsorship of extremists and reverse its policies of destabilisation in June.
First, Qatar tried to play the innocent victim. But as proof of its complicity in fuelling instability and terrorism began to mount, Doha changed tack. It made incendiary statements about Hajj and tried in vain to internationalise the dispute. It even attempted to make use of its soft power and money to lure western capitals to its side. None of this has worked. And yet instead of opting for conciliation, Qatar has chosen verbal combat, adopting a bellicose tone and intensifying tensions with a tone of defiance.
Tuesday's press conference in Doha, in which Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, accused the quartet of fomenting tensions is a case in point. The reality is simply that the quartet has given Qatar numerous opportunities to bring this crisis to an end – only to be rebuffed on each occasion. In its rhetoric and truculent posturing, Qatar is beginning increasingly to resemble Iran, a pariah state with a record of financing terrorism and destabilising the region. Perhaps encouraged by this rift, Iran lashes out at sanctions and threatens to abandon the nuclear deal.
Qatar clearly believes that its confrontational behaviour and aggressive rhetoric serves its long-term interests. It is profoundly mistaken. As the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, stated on Twitter on Tuesday, “Qatar is burning bridges with its neighbours, and is banking on external influences to mediate the crisis, which will result in deepening the crisis”. The resolve of the quartet to hold Qatar to account will not be weakened just because Doha drags this out or supplicates to external parties to come to its aid. If anything, Doha is making matters worse for itself. It can no longer conceal its history of support for terrorism. A recent report in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat, for instance, revealed how Qatar had plotted with Iran and Hizbollah to ignite a war in the southern borderlands of Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, Bahrain’s minister of information, Ali Al Rumaihi, lamented Qatar’s evident disdain for “the kinship of the Arabian Gulf countries”. Doha’s fanning of the flames is in stark contrast to the regional efforts to douse the flames. Qatar must realise the importance of a measured and pragmatic tone. Contrary to what Doha claims, the Arab states have not behaved unreasonably. Also on Tuesday, Dr Gargash once again urged Qatar’s leadership to visit Riyadh and negotiate the demands placed before it by the quartet. Doha should heed his call.
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Updated: August 16, 2017 04:59 PM