The Qatari invasion of Dibal: An act of aggression in recent memory
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed political and diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017 because of its direct and sometimes tacit support of terrorists and radical groups throughout the Middle East. The Anti-Terror Quartet was supported by numerous peace-loving states, which reaffirmed their pledge to the global war on terror. The Trump administration also confirmed on many occasions its maintenance of regional peace and security, through its commitment to the elimination of radicalism, not limited to its clear policy against Iran and the controversial nuclear deal, in addition to its pressure on the Qatari regime to relinquish its immoral ambition.
However, one must comprehend that the Qatari problem is rooted deep in the waters of the Gulf. Qatar had a serious maritime dispute with its neighbor Bahrain, when it annexed the historical capital of Zubarah (northwest of the Qatar peninsula) in 1937, in what could be considered back then an act of aggression under international law. Qatar forcefully displaced the indigenous people of Zubarah, where the Arab tribes loyal to the King of Bahrain were forced to flee after a massacre of the locals — an episode that would have been considered by today’s modern human rights regime a serious human rights violation that would have required the intervention of the international community. However, this is just considered to be “history” to many, and perhaps only a story to tell generations to come about the hostility of the Qatari regime.
One must comprehend that the Qatari problem is rooted deep in the waters of the Gulf.
Khalifa A. Alfadhel
After both Bahrain and Qatar became members of the UN in 1971, and were founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman, Qatar launched a military attack on Dibal — a small shoal a few miles off the coast of Bahrain — in 1986. The Qatari military kidnapped a number of Dutch workers who were installing a coastal security station, in accordance with a unanimous GCC resolution adopted two years earlier. The purpose of the station was to monitor Iranian naval activity, which could have affected the interests of all stakeholders, especially since this period was the aftermath of the revolution under Khomeini. Bahrain did not retaliate for the invasion, because of the mediation and good offices of neighbors, which resulted in a Qatari retreat a few weeks later.
The Qatari regime did not stop there; it took the issue to the International Court of Justice, and submitted forged documents to the tribunal, regarding Dibal and other disputed islands. Qatar gave up the counterfeit papers after the confirmation of their falseness by international experts. The pattern shows established Qatari behavior of aggression against its restrained neighbor Bahrain, which had sovereignty over the Qatari peninsula from as early as 1762.
The invasion of Dibal is a recent episode that violates the basic norms of international law. Qatar detained Dutch civilians for being construction workers, and continues to mistreat foreign laborers, especially in the construction sites of the FIFA World Cup stadiums and other facilities, which Doha will host in 2022. There is no guarantee to restrict the behavior of Qatar from its neighbors, especially with its declared close cooperation with Iran, which is in its own right a state sponsor of terror.
• Khalifa A. Alfadhel is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge.
An Arabic version of this article has been published in Newsweek Middle East.