Muna Al Fuzai
The world is busy these days following up the current crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar as an important case on the global level. But the question remains – is what’s happening now lead to a possible outbreak of a new war in the region, or is it just a passing crisis?
Although the severing of Saudi-Qatari relations was a surprise and bad news for the public, differences between countries, both within the organization of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) or outside, is normal for a large country like Saudi Arabia, which has international strategic weight both as an oil country and due to the presence of Makkah and Madinah, towards which the hearts of all Muslims are directed. This is something that must be taken into consideration when talking about Saudi Arabia. Any dispute – whether political or economic – with any country is normal, even if it is a neighbor. Sometimes, clear and straight confrontation is necessary, and this is what happened.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia and its key allies issued a list of those whom they accuse of being linked to insurgents and terrorists. The list includes 49 people and 12 charitable organizations and groups supported by Qatar. It seems that the current crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia revolves around two issues – the Qatari position towards Islamist groups and Iran. We must not forget that the dispute between the two is an old one – whether it is about borders or support for extremist political groups of all nationalities.
The new announcement is the first official reaction by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, especially with regards to closing the borders between the two countries and consequent decisions. So it is not just a passing crisis, but a real international crisis that needs solutions. It needs a major diplomatic move to reach a solution that satisfies all parties.
Despite the clarity of the Saudi position and the formal procedures and measures announced by Riyadh, the Qatari situation is ambiguous, and Doha is annoyed by the explicit accusation of funding terrorism and the boycott procedures. The Qatari position remains to reject the accusation and strengthen new and old ties with well-known Muslim states, with a repeated rejection of the Saudi claim or offers to reconcile or respond to some if not all allegations. I believe that the Qatari silence will not last long and the coming days may witness a remarkable development, perhaps radically.
The Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Thursday that “Qatar does not expect any military escalation in the current crisis with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies who are accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.” This statement indicates that Doha has not made a final decision and is still studying all the possibilities. This could be an entry for foreign countries’ diplomatic measures.
The Egyptian media had several media campaigns against Qatar in the past, which claimed that Qatar is interfering in Egyptian affairs through the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. We should not blame the United Arab Emirates for its alliance with Saudi Arabia, because UAE lost many of its young soldiers in the Yemen war, and it was close to winning that war. But the discovery that a brother country is supporting the enemy is a painful and cruel find.
So, does Qatar deserve this boycott? Of course, exclusion cannot be a solution, but this is the first time that Gulf policy has been shown as transparent, direct and public, which is unusual in light of what is known about Arab or Gulf policies. It is a case study.
Will the siege succeed? I think that whether we agree or not, the Qatar boycott will have a negative impact on the overall climate of the region, and mobility will undoubtedly be difficult for Qataris and other employees in Qatar. But hopes remain that major countries will intervene in persuading Qatar to stop its current policy of provocation in the region, especially by the Al-Jazeera channel and alliances with extremist Islamist elements.
The interference of ignorant people with foul comments on Twitter and loyalists of the Muslim Brotherhood is expected, yet it will not change the reality. Saudi Arabia is a large country with a religious influence on the world. It has a key geographical location and relations with all countries, whether economic or political, so negotiations should be held now to prevent a war between brothers in the region.
By Muna Al-Fuzai