Qatar struggles as power shifts in the region
In recent weeks we have witnessed the fall of the regime of Omar Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for three decades, and the ousting of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Algerian president who was not actually ruling. Meanwhile, the political map in Libya is changing as well, with the Libyan National Army heading to the capital, Tripoli, and besieging it, determined to liberate it against the will of the government, which is merely a facade masking the extremist armed militias that control the city.
What these three events have in common is that all of the ousted governments have connections to Doha, which describes itself as the capital of decision and change but is in reality the capital of the Muslim Brotherhood. Adding to Qatar’s losses is the failure of forces that count on it in Eritrea and Ethiopia. In addition, we must not forget the defeats of another ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has yet to recover from the shock of his election losses last week in his country’s main cities, which threaten his remaining years in office.
Of course, these countries and conflicts are not officially linked to Qatar in any way — except for Doha’s desire to impose change in the region to bring it in line with its political vision. To achieve this, the regime employs the Muslim Brotherhood, whose activities have affected many places around the world. Unfortunately for Doha, and the Brotherhood, US President Donald Trump does not agree with them on anything, despite repeated attempts to appease him. They have lost the support of the White House since the departure of Barack Obama, who gave the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to prove itself, only for its government in Egypt to fail internally and externally and fall.
Sudan’s ousted president, Omar Al-Bashir, ruled for a long period of time, so his fall was a resounding one. The Qatari regime tried several times to intervene in the crisis to ensure the survival of its political ally but failed.
Now Doha is trying to support the besieged militias in Tripoli but the task is a difficult one. For months, the army has been cleansing Libyan territory of militias, succeeding in all such operations since last summer, and now it has finally turned its attention to Tripoli. The efforts of military chiefs have been given legitimacy by the Libyan Parliament — the same legitimacy that is claimed by the head of National Accord government.
The Arab League is opposed to Qatar’s allies in Libya. It refused to open its doors to the National Accord government, or listen to Qatar and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj when they demanded that the organization denounce the unification of Libya led by Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army.
The world’s major powers, too, are backing the Libyan army. The latest leader to do so was Trump, who called Haftar and expressed his support for the army’s fight against terrorists — by which he meant the Qatar-backed militias — that control Tripoli. Russia and France have also become supporters of Haftar, and the majority of Arab governments support the army in the face of Qatar’s allies, the militias in Tripoli. All of them want a single regime, a united Libyan state and an end to the rule of the militias.
Doha has not had any better luck in Algeria than in Khartoum and Tripoli, as the protests there enter a ninth week. The Algerian military is the group that is in control and not the extremist groups, which have been driven away.
Will the ousting of Al-Bashir and the siege of Tripoli diminish the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and dash Doha’s dreams? These events certainly present difficulties for the Qatari regime; its ability to control change, whether by conspiring with internal forces or the media, is no longer as effective as it once was.
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.