Was Qatar ever a brother to the other five constituents of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] of which it was the sixth arm? The answer, as the cliché goes, is a deafening No.
Qatar is sitting on so much of gas wealth that it has been bitten by an uncontrollable itch to control the destiny of the Arab Gulf region and direct its policies. And to this end its rulers are willing to go to any length, thinking nothing of bypassing international treaties, and indulging in underhand dealings and subversive activities. They seem to think nothing of the political impasse and financial burden created following its boycott by the Arab Quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt.
Last week the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies organised a conference bringing together diplomats, government and security officials and journalists from across the Arab world to take stock of Qatar’s sponsoring of terrorism, its suspicious and growing relations with Iran, and its propping up of Al Jazeera TV and many other media outlets across the Arab world to create instability and confusion threatening regional security and stability.
The conference was quite appropriately titled “Qatar: Patron of Anarchy and Crisis in the Middle East.” [News of Bahrain]
Bahrain has been on the receiving end of Qatar’s evil designs most, with its anti-Bahrain activities going back to 1986 when its military occupied the islet of Fasht Dibal and subsequently laid claim to the Hawar Islands. Qatar lost the latter case in the International Court of Justice in The Hague when, in March 2001, the court threw out the documents submitted by Doha as forged and declared the claim as illegitimate.
No wonder at the conference Bahrain also raised the prospect of seeking compensation from Qatar for the economic damage caused to it because of its dirty tricks. Qatar has not only backed Bahrain-based terrorists, sleeping cells and anti-government political societies financially, logistically and by way of media support, its former prime minister Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani even tried to take advantage of the 2011 troubles in Bahrain by contacting Shaikh Ali Salman, head of the now-defunct Al Wefaq Society, to overthrow the regime.
Indeed A Tunisian MP at the conference also spoke of a similar tactics applied by Qatar against her country. Leila Chettaoui said Qatar was busy propping up extremists and terrorists by ensuring their presence in elections and supporting their militias. She named the Muslim Brotherhood among them.
“Qatar wants to control the Arab World in its decision making, either through MPs, government officials or through terrorist groups in Libya, Syria and across the world,” she said, adding: “It still provides funding in my home country to the main Muslim Brotherhood group through 18,000 unmonitored societies, while it imports religious preachers from across the world to spread its destructive message.”
Bitten by the bug of megalomania, Qatar has forgotten that some of its other GCC neighbours have as much oil wealth as it has. And traditionally, within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has provided the lead while decisions have been reached through consensus at the annual GCC summits.
For a country with hardly any size and a population which – as a Gulf ruler once sneeringly claimed – could fit into a hotel, it is over-ambitious if not impetuous of Qatar to try to claim political space sitting on the back of a neighbour like Iran which is already sinking under the weight of nationwide demonstrations.