Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, Defence Minister of Qatar, the Gulf country facing sanctions and blockade of airspace by the Arab Quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, has been trying lately to whitewash his country’s acts of omission and commission in the media circles of America.
In an interview to The Washington Post last week, he came up with some bizarre ‘facts’ and statements, possibly in the belief that readers would take anything published in a western newspaper as the gospel truth, without resorting to a pinch of salt.
The interview with rambling replies by the minister broadly had three threads: that Iran is a benign state that has to be tackled through dialogue, that Saudi Arabia and the UAE intended to invade Qatar, and that the intention has been to install a new Amir in Qatar. He dismissed the 13 demands of Quartet out of hand, and rejected his country’s involvement in propping up, promoting and financing extremists and terrorist outfits.
For example asked about the Quartet’s demand on Qatar to stop backing terrorism, the minister’s terse reply was: “We are the only country who signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States to counter terrorism.” No mention of supporting the Taliban, the Hezbollah, the Hamas and other outfits, their leaders and promoters!
The exhortation for a dialogue with Iran to solve long-standing problems with the countries of the Arabian Gulf was rather unusual, quite obviously made to justify Qatari leaders’ tight embraces with their Iranian counterparts.
The ground reality is that when the Houthi rebels in far-away Yemen, managed to have an upper hand thanks to the Iranian backing the Peninsula Shield consisting of the forces of the Arab Gulf countries, notably from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar were deployed to contain the menace.
But the defence minister will not tell The Washington Post that the Qatari officers in the mission were actually secretly deployed to gather intelligence for the benefit of Iran to counter the Peninsula Shield manoeuvres!
The history of the region is strewn with other instances where dialogue has thrown up no solution. Iran has been occupying the UAE islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs for nearly half a century and its hegemony has defeated every dialogue.
As for its fears of regime change by the UAE or Saudi Arabia, in reality Qatar had tried to bring about a regime change in Bahrain to favour Iran and facilitate its facetious claim on the country as far back as 2011, when its ex-prime minister got in touch with the head of a pro-Iranian Bahraini political society to see if a coup was possible.
And to scare and browbeat the UAE, its military planes last month even scrambled around Emirati civilian planes heading for Bahrain in broad daylight and followed up the misadventure with complaints of its own airspace having been violated by UAE military planes. Of course the latter was prompt enough to submit all the evidence to support its case to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The Qatari minister ought to realise that in 2018 when he speaks to a Washington daily, it’s not that only the city-dwellers there read his frothy statements. The world at large reads them too on the Net and discusses it and wonders what is it about Iran that fascinates a GCC country when their relationship since the time of the Shah has never inspired trust among Arabs.
Down the decades, Iran has spied against them, occupied their islands, caused mayhem at holy places, funded terror and aspired for regime change in Bahrain.