As the first anniversary of the soured relations between the maverick Qatar and four Arab countries collectively known as the Arab Qatar-Quartet [Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt] approaches, their relations seem to have touched a new low.
The four had cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed trade, transport and air embargo on it for a number of reasons, the main ones being the Qatari support for terrorist and extremist outfits by way of funding and shelter, and Doha cosying up to Tehran, and propping up Al Jazeera TV to denigrate the rest of the Arab countries.
Kuwait, Oman, the US and some European countries did try in the first flush of the imbroglio to sort the matters out but with no results forthcoming their efforts tended to taper off.
In the meantime Qatar assumed an aggressive position when its fighter planes began to repeatedly violate Bahraini and UAE airspace and on some occasions flew dangerously close to civilian aircraft bound for those countries.
When the Bahraini foreign minister told London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al Awsat that “there is no glimmer of hope now to solve this crisis” this in a way pointed to the abyss where the relations had descended. As if taking a cue from this remark Qatar immediately reacted by announcing a ban on the import and sale of products originating from the Arab Quartet nations – a rather sordid riposte since their export from these countries had already reduced to a trickle.
As a senior member of the Bahraini Parliament’s Shura Council or Upper House said: “The movement of goods and people was already stopped since June , so there is nothing new. They want to portray themselves as underdogs to get support from the international community.”
While there is some truth in the Bahraini foreign minister’s statement, all is not lost and in view of the Donald Trump administration’s dumping of the nuclear deal with Iran signed by his predecessor and some European countries the new-found Iran-Qatar bonhomie must have got a jolt.
In the wake of the deal Iran had come to believe it could run roughshod across its neighbourhood, unquestioned and undeterred. But Tehran’s misadventures in Yemen, its tight embraces with the Qatari leadership and its funding of anti-government elements in Bahrain are likely to come under renewed scrutiny as a consequence of the nuclear deal having gone askew. And if Iran feels the heat its friends and beneficiaries in Yemen, Qatar, Iraq and Lebanon will feel it too.
So even if the Quartet is unable to bring Qatar to the negotiating table the Iranian compulsions of realpolitik might drive them there. One has only to wait and see how the nuclear deal drama unfolds.