Qatar Continues to Play Games With Arab States

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After more than three months of embargo by four Arab nations – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Egypt – and direct and indirect attempts by Kuwait, the USA and Russia, to negotiate a settlement there has been no change on the ground as far as the trauma of Qatari leaders is concerned.

Qatar has been balking at meeting the 13 demands put out by the Arab Quartet asking it, among other things, to desist from strengthening relations with Iran, supporting and harbouring extremist outfits and their leaders, and continuing to patronize Jazeera TV, the stand-off continues. The praises sung for Iran by the Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs at the Arab League meeting in Jeddah earlier this week have hardly helped matters.

Though for home consumption the Qatari newspapers and the media in general continue to project the image that everything is hunky-dory and the embargo has not had even an iota of effect on its economy or the lives of its people the facts speak otherwise and so does its rulers’ behaviour at the international fora.

According to a Moody’s Investor Service assessment this week, Qatar had to use $38.5 billion or an equivalent of 23% of its GDP to support its economy in the first two months [June-July] of being hit by the Arab Quartet. Apart from the social and financial costs, its trade, tourism and the banking sector have been badly affected.

No wonder, when the Qatari foreign minister shed crocodile’s tears at the Geneva meeting of the UN Human Rights Council this week, his Bahraini counterpart dismissed them as “boring words” and took no time in posting on his Twitter account [433,000 followers]: “Seeking compassion and engaging in tearful complaints will not help in any way, especially if there is no basis for it. What is required is a serious stance by Qatar in which it engages in introspection and self-examination before facing the others.”

He also said the language used by the Qatari official “does not suggest any desire to resolve Qatar’s crisis” and “that in fact, and unfortunately, it is merely a repeat of the same boring words … Yes, we do want a serious solution with guarantees and which meets our just demands and does not take us back. We do not want a solution à la ‘kiss and make up’ or ‘May God guide you!” Earlier the Bahrain Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister had indicated it remained adamant about the 13 demands made of Qatar before any dialogue could begin.

The contradictory voices emerging from Qatar ring of dissonance and a lack of policy. While the Qatari foreign minister talks of the impact of the boycott as he stands pleading before the UN in Geneva, its institutions and the Press are going to town proclaiming that the boycott has had no effect whatsoever and the life is normal, which is patently a lie.

At the Geneva session the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN Obaid Salem Al Za’abi also rejected Qatar’s constant efforts to mislead the world opinion, adding that “Qatar promoted terrorist ideology and individuals representing that ideology, with some of them designated in the international list of terrorists, which not only harmed many governments and people in the region, but also peoples of other countries.”

But Qatar has been refusing to listen. Diplomatically it is tight with Iran, their embassies are functioning in full form, the Iranian banks are up and about in Doha, instead of the Dubai port Qatar has found the Omanis to help it out, most of the notorious characters and henchmen of extremist groups are still active there even if maintaining a low profile until the regional dynamics becomes clear and Al Jazeera TV continues to defend the indefensible.

There is no sign of contrition and no move to seriously take up the Kuwait offers of mediation. But Qatar’s pleadings with the international bodies are unlikely to help because the dossiers on it are quite fat whereas there is only so much it can draw in the long run out of its deep pockets to sustain its economy.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.