Whenever a terrorist incident occurs in Egypt, Egyptians blame Qatar. They are convinced that the terrorism they suffer from is due to Doha’s support for it. Its unwavering support for the Muslim Brotherhood has convinced Egyptians that Qatar does not have good intentions for them. Ever since Egypt positioned itself within the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, terrorist operations have increased.
Egyptians consider this a response from Qatar-backed terrorists to Cairo’s position. Even though Egyptians are currently concerned about their economic situation, the high cost of living and a partial decrease in flour subsidies, the relationship with Qatar still weighs heavily on their minds.
They hope to see Doha comply with the ATQ’s demands to stop supporting terrorism and to commit to its neighbors’ security. But Egyptians are deeply concerned about Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain solving the problem with Qatar and leaving Egypt out of the solution without achieving its goals.
There are two reasons for this concern. Firstly, the problem is being dealt with globally and regionally as one among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Most proposals for a solution deal with the crisis in this context. So when the time comes to resolve it, some Egyptians fear they will find themselves outside the framework of the settlement.
The second reason is that in previous instances Egypt was left behind, albeit on a much smaller scale. But despite this fear, the situation with Qatar is a principled position that is difficult to abandon by any of the parties.
As part of Cairo’s efforts to continue involving public opinion in developments, the Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet published a report on Thursday on future steps and scenarios for dealing with Qatar “in order to preserve Arab national security.”
The report highlights the most important questions about the Arab dispute with Qatar, and the coordination and consultative procedures between the ATQ countries on future steps to deal with Doha. The report cites several scenarios, including going to the UN Security Council to condemn Qatar, continuing the economic boycott, imposing new sanctions and freezing its GCC membership. The report also refers to military escalation, though this is unlikely.
Ever since Egypt positioned itself within the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, terrorist operations have increased. Egyptians consider this a response from Qatar-backed terrorists to Cairo’s position.
So currently, Egypt will focus on economic and political measures, with the possibility of resorting to the Security Council to investigate alternatives to military action. The crisis is developing at an accelerated rate, but everyone wants to avoid military action unless Qatar makes a catastrophic strategic error, such as threatening Gulf regional security with Iran’s help, which is considered a red line for the Gulf states.
Qatar has complicated matters by rejecting the ATQ’s demands, considering some of them detrimental to its sovereignty. But it was embarrassing for Doha when CNN leaked details of its non-compliance with previous agreements that made similar demands. The four ATQ countries say they will not retreat unless Qatar responds to the 13 demands.
Doha will likely remain stubborn and supportive of terrorism, so there will be no choice but to put more pressure on it. The ATQ is believed to have a strong hand in terms of financial boycotts, asset freezes and movements of Qatari funds. It may also take political measures to isolate Qatar in regional organizations, and military steps such as setting up a base in Bahrain against Turkey’s base in Qatar as a reaction to Ankara’s attempt to intervene in the crisis.
When UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the boycott of Qatar will continue, he meant that the US secretary of state’s efforts have failed, and that Arabs have realized that Washington has given in to political opportunism and self-interest. This means the ATQ countries should continue to coordinate, and most importantly, have a long-term, stable, strong, reassuring and unified strategy.
• Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. He can be reached on Twitter @ALMenawy