The ongoing row between Qatar and a bloc including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt is largely based on allegations of Doha’s backing of terror groups and rabble-rousers. The Saudi-led bloc issued a blacklist naming Qatari suspects and organizations engaged in terror operations. Doha rejects the accusations, claiming the list is controversial, politicized and reflects inter-state disputes.
However, blacklisted Qatari parties are not just barred by the bloc, but are designated by official US institutions such as the Department of the Treasury. The blacklist is becoming international rather than exclusive to Arab states. Qatar is being urged to extradite all those on the blacklist residing on its territory.
But instead of discussing the names, a Qatari Foreign Ministry official took a hawkish position, claiming that the diplomatic crisis targets Doha’s reputation, and that the states joining the boycott have imposed self-proclaimed custody over Qatar. In order for the truth not to be lost amid the bloc’s claims and Qatar’s denials, the latter can involve the Americans, given that they are its friend and have information about the blacklist.
The matter concerns the international community, not just the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis and Bahrainis. So it is an opportunity to cooperate and be transparent. All countries involved must lay out their cards on the table and accept cooperation instead of exchanging accusations. They must accept an investigation and try those who are blacklisted. Doha’s problem is that those blacklisted — including Saudis, Kuwaitis and others — are linked to it.
Even though Qataris are blacklisted, Doha refuses to try them. This strengthens suspicions. Worse, most on the list are still active in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and other conflict zones where terrorist groups operate. The same goes for institutions and associations that are considered bogus charities. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have made these institutions’ names public.
All countries involved must lay out their cards on the table and accept cooperation instead of exchanging accusations. They must accept an investigation and try those who are blacklisted.
“The list included the names of charity organizations that have a long history in humanitarian work. Some of them have a consultative status at the UN,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry official said. So why does Qatar not silence its rivals by allowing an international investigation into these institutions or shutting them down? Our brothers in Qatar, for their own sake and interest, must heed this advice.
Doha has befriended terrorist groups since the mid-1990s. First it publicized Al-Qaeda videos and propaganda in Afghanistan, then Qatar’s activity expanded into areas where there are revolutions, funding armed groups such as Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham.
Counterterrorism ranks first on the world’s priority list. The international community will pursue any country that supports these groups. It will not be long before Doha finds itself caught in the clamps of countries bigger than Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE.
• 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.