Qatar’s diplomatic crisis is going downhill

Qatar’s diplomatic crisis is going downhill

Qatar’s government moved last week to sign a deal on buying 36 top-notch F-15 fighter jets. After securing this purchase, Doha will have a massive air force at its disposal.

It is worth remembering that in November 2016 Qatar also sealed a deal to add 72 F-15 fighter jets to its fleet. But there remains a catch-22 over Qatar’s aerial military might: Despite a large and capable air fleet, it lacks a sufficient and accessible airspace for its pilots to conduct much-needed drills.

Qatar’s airspace has been sizably trimmed after neighboring Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Bahrain closed off their air and land routes over Doha’s alleged role in funding extremist groups.

Unless Doha seeks Iran’s help or travels abroad for training exercises, fighter-jet drills will be difficult.

Qatar today faces a boycott of political, social and economic ties. And since this is not a military standoff, F-15 jets are of no relevance to finding a solution.

Authorities in Doha complain against the recently-imposed punitive measures made by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, after their patience ran out amid destabilizing actions Qatar has upheld in the region. These actions began when the former emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, staged a power grab — and they continue to this very day.

For years Qatar has engaged in risky ploys, managed by the former emir over the phone and from a distance, safe in the knowledge that Arab governments will not dare punish his country. But everything ultimately has a price.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE want Doha to be held accountable for its hostile political agenda. Qatar may endure the diplomatic boycott for a few months, but does not share Iran’s tough skin against embargo.

In the end, Qatar will succumb and give up on funding anarchist parties. It will eventually shut down most rabble-rousing media outlets it created when evading commitments it made under the Riyadh Agreement.

Some of Doha’s problems can be solved. For example, it can import fruits and vegetables from Europe, meat from Australia and dairy products from Turkey, paying more money to import these items by plane.

In the end, Doha will succumb and give up on funding anarchist parties. It will eventually shut down most rabble-rousing media outlets it created when evading commitments it made under the Riyadh Agreement.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

However, there are problems which Doha cannot solve through money or developed means of transportation. Confidence in the political system will shake. As threats and costs increase, Qatar’s government will not be able to reassure its citizens and residents, and will not be able to end tensions that affected them and major companies present in the country.

In the last two weeks, Qatar’s government attempted to reassure citizens and residents by falsely claiming that disputes are soon to be resolved.

At some point, it went as far as forging statements and attributing some of them to Washington officials, including to the US President Donald Trump. It exaggerated talks and repeated news to reassure its citizens that the American military base will remain in Qatar.

People in Qatar began to realize the bitter truth that their government got them biting off more than they can chew. They realized that the crisis is not going anywhere, and that the boycott will restrain them as disputes worsen and more bridges burn down.

Countries harmed by Qatar’s policies said they intend on having Qatar pay a high price so long that it threatens their security and stability.

All tricks up Doha’s sleeve have failed — particularly when it attempted to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and incite the US against Saudi Arabia.

Mobilizing Doha-hired social media and media mouthpieces in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE also proved useless as those countries’ governments preemptively cracked down on all Qatar-linked outlets, blocking them in their territories.

Saudi, Egyptian, Bahraini and Emirati governments now closely monitor all financial transactions and communications coming into or out of their counties that are even remotely linked to Qatar. They have obstructed any plans that Doha authorities had invested in inside their countries.

This time, breaking the ice goes beyond a warm opening of arms or a call for traditional Arab tolerance and kindness. Doha needs to seriously rethink its detrimental policy in the region.

Even if they are not partaking in the boycott, the majority of the region’s countries agree that Qatar’s regime has crossed all red lines, causing grave destruction, threatening the region’s entire security and aiding terrorist groups and hostile countries like Iran.

These countries together will support penalizing Qatari authorities until it alters its practices and raises the white flag.

• 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.

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