Qatar will quietly surrender in the dark
Doha’s upcoming moves can be easily predicted like an open book, as it has taken the same steps in similar previous crises. It is keen on spreading rejectionist propaganda and showing heroic stances on television that do not match its capabilities or reflect the decisions it intends to take.
Do not believe Qatar’s decision to reject the demands of the Anti-Terror Quartet, because it will secretly surrender later. This is what it did in its conflict with Saudi Arabia in 2013 and 2014. Qatar has exaggerated its tenacious attitude in the media, but again has asked Kuwait’s emir to intervene and stop the crisis.
When Doha previously agreed to meet all demands, including silencing its Al Jazeera channel, it did not complain that it was a violation of its sovereignty. The Qatari emir’s only condition back then was not to announce the details of the deal. Riyadh kept it confidential until the current crisis began a few weeks ago, when most of the information was revealed.
Doha has announced its rejection via media celebrations and propaganda, but in a month or two it will send secret mediators with a short message that it is ready to accept all 13 demands. Hypocrisy will be shown again.
Qatar cares about its image; it wants the world to see that it rejected the demands, then it will be ready to compromise behind the scenes. An informed Qatari source advised me not to believe anything, saying Qatar will be ready to get rid of Al Jazeera and even fire a number of its employees. It will then announce the channel’s sale, and the buyer will be one of its supporters.
In my opinion, it is wrong to include Al Jazeera in the demands. It is just a media tool of the government. Everyone knows it is no longer influential. Qatar’s maneuvers will be repeated in a different way.
Doha cares about its image; it wants the world to see that it rejected the demands, then it will be ready to compromise behind the scenes.
Last time, the emir promised to undertake commitments that are similar to today’s demands. The previous list included stopping the financing of Saudi extremist religious groups, dissidents, clerics, academics and media figures to work against the Kingdom; and a halt to media campaigns of incitement, including on Al Jazeera.
Qatar has not honored its commitments. Al Jazeera has stopped criticizing the Kingdom for three consecutive years and was always praising Saudi officials, but at the same time Doha opened two television stations in London that carried out incitement against Riyadh. After Al Jazeera stopped criticizing Saudi Arabia, based on the deal between the two governments, it dedicated most of its time to incitement against Egyptian authorities.
Doha has stopped paying Saudi dissidents, as per the previous deal, but has opened new bank accounts for them via affiliated institutions and increased their number from tens to hundreds. As for the demand to stop sheltering Saudi Islamic extremists, Doha deported some of them to live in Turkey at its own expense until today, and gave Qatari citizenship to others.
Saudi Arabia is supported by Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, giving it a stronger diplomatic position. Other regional governments support the Anti-Terror Quartet, and their positions will be expressed clearly in future diplomatic and economic meetings. All these countries are against reconciliation as they want Qatar to feel the same danger it has caused other governments in the region by insisting on funding terrorist and extremist groups.
• 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.