Tuesday , October 24 2017

Qatar the architect of its own isolation

THIS is one of the saddest days since the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed. I never imagined that a brotherly country, a neighbour with which we in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) share ties of blood, would act against us behind the curtain by supporting terrorist groups threatening us all while getting cosy with our adversary, Iran.

The Qatari regime’s loyalty towards its GCC allies has long been questioned. The fact that it has been sheltering Muslim Brotherhood criminals languishing in five-star hotels and has close ties with both Hamas and the Afghan Taleban and other terrorist groups is an open secret.

The motives behind the Qatari government’s ill treatment of its closest friends are not clear. I can but speculate that the Amir was hand-in-glove with former US president Barack Obama who was set on bolstering Iran’s influence while cutting that of Gulf States down to size.

The Qatari leadership is known for talking out of both sides of its mouth, saying one thing and doing the opposite. The smiles and the warm diplomatic messages from that quarter were fakes designed to hide the country’s double-dealings.

Qatar’s friendly posture towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kingdom of Bahrain has been exposed as a duplicitous charade, which cannot be tolerated. Saudi, the Emirates and Bahrain do not seek confrontation; our leaders are patient but also just, firm and strong when the safety of our people is at stake. We cannot forever blind our eyes and close our ears to the truth staring us in the face.

Qataris are good people, some of the finest I know. They share our culture and traditions. I do not believe they condone the behaviour of their ruler. They have been quietly oppressed and are afraid to air their true opinions. We do not wish to harm them in any way and look forward to a time when we can break bread with them again.

I would appeal to my Qatari brothers and sisters not to take the severing of diplomatic relations with Doha by the Kingdom, the UAE and Bahrain personally. We have been left with no choice.

Egypt, Libya, Yemen, the Maldives and Mauritius are backing our stance. Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Manama and Cairo have closed air, sea and land transport links to Doha “for the protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism,” said an official Saudi source quoted by the Saudi News Agency.

We anticipate that Jordan, Morocco and Sudan will announce similar measures. We hope and trust that Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman will also do what is right.

I expect that certain Western nations will join the boycott although I am disappointed with the American response. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging reconciliation and says the US has no plans to relocate its Central Command operations from Qatar. Such a quick fire response is disappointing.

Qatar’s isolation will deplete its coffers. We are already witnessing negative effects on the country’s stock market and airlines. Unfortunately, Qataris will not be immune from inconvenience. I sincerely hope our separation will be short and what’s happening is nothing more than a temporary family fall out. Qatar has always been part of our Gulf family and should remain so.

On a positive note, the beneficiaries of the regime’s terrorist funding — Hezbollah, pro-Iranian Yemeni Houthis, Hamas, Jabhat A-Nusra, the Brotherhood, DAESH, Al Qaeda and others — will suffer a loss of liquidity.

Too much bad water has gone under the bridge. There is no turning back unless Qatar can find a way to redeem itself. The regime of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his son Tamim cannot be trusted. Its promises are worthless.

Qatar’s administration has steered the country in the wrong direction and used its vast wealth for nefarious purposes. I believe Qataris are waking up to that indisputable reality. I am not in the business of telling the people of other nations how to react to their own governments; that is for them to decide. I pray they make wise choices.

However, if the Amir of Qatar cares about the future of his country and his people, it is better for him to start thinking about changing his policies, so that, we do not reach a point where the affected ones would demand the stepping down of his administration and sending it to exile. There are numerous states which would offer him sanctuary, states that would welcome a mega injection of funds.

There are honest people within the Al Thani family capable of bringing Qatar back to the straight and narrow. Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al Thani is one. He slammed Sheikh Tamim in a tweet, writing: “We hoped that foreign policy would change and our hopes were disappointed after you joined forces with Iran against your brothers and set up terrorist groups and published electronic battalions to beat your opponents …”

There are branches of the extensive Al Thani family made up of true Gulf Arabs who genuinely love their neighbours’ soil as much as their own and want to play a role in bettering the Arab World, not injecting it with divisiveness.

They should step up and make their voices heard so that the Qatari people can coalesce behind them. Saudi and the UAE, and their allies would be only too happy to welcome Qatar back to fold.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry has described the measures taken as “unjustified” and “based on claims and allegations with no basis in fact”. That statement whistles to the wind. There is a growing mountain of evidence that refutes such denials.

I look forward to the recalibration of Qatar’s foreign policy in accordance with that of all GCC member states so that we can have the confidence to mend relations with Doha in good faith. How that is achieved rests on Qatari shoulders but, in the meantime, the Emirates and its Arab allies must do what they have to in order to protect their own people.

Once all our countries around the Arabian Gulf are on the same page when it comes to battling the terrorist scourge and pushing back on Iran’s expansionism, they will be the safest and most stable on earth.

Come back to us, Qatar! Come back to us as a loyal partner! Let us trust in God to bring us together in love and friendship before the rift becomes too wide to swiftly traverse.

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor – UAE Businessman

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