Two choices to resolve the Qatar crisis
Those who know the history of Qatar’s disputes with its neighbors know that finding a solution is easy. I will reveal this solution at the end of this article, but first, here is a brief summary of the history of the current crisis.
It began in the 1990s after Qatar reignited the dispute with Bahrain over ownership of a group of islands in the Gulf. In 1995, a bloodless palace coup took place in Qatar and the new emir, Sheikh Hamad, rejected the Saudi mediation and instead insisted on heading to the International Criminal Court. The ultimate ruling fell in Bahrain’s favor, granting it power over most of the disputed land.
Had Qatar accepted the mediation of late King Fahd, it would have gotten more or, at least as much, as Bahrain did.
The Qatari government then turned against Saudi Arabia and renewed a dispute over border areas, after it had resolved a similar row through the mediation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That second dispute was resolved in 2001 through appeasing both sides.
Qatar however reneged on its pledges and waged media wars of incitement against Saudi Arabia. It harbored opponents of the Kingdom, and backed Al-Qaeda and its former leader Osama Bin Laden, who in an early speech called for changing the regime in Saudi Arabia by force.
Despite the numerous settlements, Doha continued financing and supporting opposition groups that seek to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
After the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, Qatar sought to expand its incitement and began to target the UAE because it was backing those opposing Doha. It then turned its attention to Egypt in an unprecedented and blatant way, vowing to topple the regime of Abdul Fattah El-Sisi.
This would all have been understandable if the Qatar government itself accepted change through democracy or by force. The problem however is that it is the least tolerant Gulf state. It once sentenced a Qatari poet to 15 years in prison over a poem!
Several regional countries finally said “enough” and announced earlier this month that they were severing ties with Qatar.
Despite numerous previous settlements, Doha continued financing and supporting opposition groups that seek to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
There are a number of solutions to restore the situation back to normal, but it seems that they are not in line with the reconciliation approaches of 2013 and 2014. At that time Qatar signed in Riyadh a pledge of 20 points, of which only one has been implemented.
The truth is that the Gulf states that cut links with Qatar can live in peace without Doha. It seems it is Qatar that cannot tolerate this situation, given the outcry after the June 5 statement on cutting ties.
So how can this problem be solved and how can Qatar come out of the crisis?
Doha wants to repeat its old methods of bringing in mediators and offering pledges that it will change its behavior. But it will then continue in its attempts to topple the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, or incite strife against them.
It should be noted that Qatar in its last Riyadh agreement had vowed to stop the incitement machine. Indeed, this was witnessed through its Al Jazeera channel, which has been adopting a calmer approach in the last three years, following the earlier agreement. Qatar had in secret however set up websites and television stations that had taken up the incitement mission.
Qatar may have expelled a number of anti-Gulf figures from Doha, but it gave them homes in Turkey and London. It has continued to finance and support them through secret networks that it set up in those countries.
Since the eruption of the current crisis, Qatar has been adopting the same old approach. It sought the help of Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait. But the other Gulf countries have learned their lesson. They announced that they will continue to live in peace without Qatar. They will seek to put an end to anything connected with it, and destroy its internal networks.
Doha is faced with two options for resolving the crisis. It can either completely concede to the demands of the four countries, or live in isolation.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.