Persian Gulf: Is the crisis over?
… by Viktor Mikhin, … with New Eastern Outlook, Moscow
[ Editor’s note: Viktor Mikhin from the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences takes us behind the scenes into the recent diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its fellow Arab Gulf Cooperation Council members.
American media rarely provides much on this area unless it has a war or Israeli angle to it. Hence most of us know very little about the countries themselves.
The dispute stemmed from Qatar’s continued support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Saudis had tagged as a terrorist organization.
That seems a bit strange to Westerners, as we know how deeply the Saudis and Qatar have been involved in supporting the terrorist brigades killing the Syrians.
Under US law, they could quality for drone strikes on their person for doing such, but somehow I find that unlikely. The US protagonists of the terror war against Syria would then put themselves in the cross-hairs for such strikes themselves.
That does bring up an interesting ploy for negotiating an end to opposing US drones strikes in their anti-terror campaign. And that would be assigning an independent commission of world experts to be allotted half the drone-strike capability to hit targets it deemed aiding and abetting terrorism, including Americans, just like the Pentagon does, and with full immunity. This would include American officials guilty of such acts.
I was happy to learn from Viktor below that the Saudis have had some convictions already against those supporting terror operations in Syria. This seems to be the token small-fry people being sacrificed for public consumption.
We have heard no demand for a JFK – Warren Commission style report to expose all the details of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the terror war on Syria. And in all fairness, we would look forward to a similar investigation on the US side… Jim W. Dean ]
– First published April 24, 2014 –
“The political crisis between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE on the one hand and Qatar on the other has concluded because outside forces were not permitted to interfere with the crisis resolution process,” Sultanate of Oman Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah stated in an interview with Al-Hayat, a leading pan-Arabic newspaper.
The crisis was resolved at the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) summit for diplomatic heads on April 17 in Riyadh, which was attended by Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah.
The diplomatic meeting went past its allotted time and concluded close to midnight, Arabic media sources report. It is noteworthy that for the first time since the beginning of the crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a representative from Doha arrived in Riyadh with an official visit.
A joint petition was concluded at the meeting of Arabic Foreign Ministers that emphasizes the fact that the Council is creating a collective structure where “the policies of member states will not interfere with the interests, the security and the stability of other member states and will not infringe on the sovereignty of any state within the Gulf Cooperation Council.”
The ministers also approved mechanisms to implement the agreements signed at a summit in Riyadh in November of last year which provide for close partnership on policy and security issues.
Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah called the differences of opinion between the Arabic monarchs “a storm that arose suddenly and which has already passed. Everything has calmed down. There are no stains in the relationships between the GCC countries.”
Qatar’s GCC partners want Doha to change its foreign policy and to fight extremist organisations, including on Qatari territory. The concessions that Qatar has had to make have not been officially announced. However, according to Al-Bayan, an Emirates newspaper, Qatar could have agreed to stop providing refuge and an informational platform to the political and religious leaders which are hostile to other Gulf countries.
Incidentally, Kuwait has taken on the role of mediator in the present issue. On the eve of the League of Arab States summit held at the end of March in Kuwait, the Kuwait Minister of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah stated that this issue only affects the GCC and will be resolved only at the level of this organization.
According to experts and foreign politicians, adhering to a policy of quiet diplomacy could have significantly aided the resolution of the present crisis. Last week al-Jarallah announced the possible swift return of the diplomatic mission heads to Doha.
At the same time, however, many Arab analysts believe that Qatar’s foreign policy could not handle any sudden changes in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. For example, fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Institute’s Gulf and Energy Policy Program Simon Henderson has noted that at the present stage, Qatar’s leadership is not willing to offer significant concessions.
“Unlike King Abdullah and certain other Gulf leaders, Doha seems to view its own quasi-monarchal political system as above any potential Brotherhood threats. Doha has also been in competition with Riyadh for influence among Syria’s anti-Assad opposition, though it may be easing up on that posture,” Henderson stated.
In this respect, it should also be noted that this is the first time a crisis has emerged in this regional political bloc, which has existed for over 30 years.
At the beginning of March of this year, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE announced a recall of their ambassadors from Doha.
The main reason for the disagreement was the financial and political support provided by Qatar’s leadership to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has recently been deemed a terrorist organization in Saudi Arabia.
For Doha, this support ended up not only hurting the country’s relationship with other Arab countries but also with Egypt, where dozens of criminal charges have been filed against the functionaries of this Islamist Organization.
In the opinion of the Saudi leadership, Qatar has been undermining Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries with its activities, while Al Jazeera has been attempting to regain its reputation through critical anti-government reports about the Gulf countries and the Middle East (for which reporters from the Qatari television channel were arrested on numerous occasions).
However, the most contentious issue for the Gulf countries was Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood; the Brotherhood has supported the ideas of “political Islam” which are fairly modernistic for the region.
These ideas and their relative religious tolerance for other schools of Islam, democratic foundations and an attempt to combine the achievements of progress with the Qur’an are lethal to the Gulf conservative monarchies.
Due to this, the Gulf countries have practically issued an ultimatum to Qatar. Either it discontinues support for the Muslim Brotherhood and all other associations that promote political Islam in the Arab world, while also deporting the Muslim Brotherhood movement’s ideologist Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and disbanding the militants supported by Doha, or face sanctions.
Incidentally, Yusuf al-Qaradawi has not given a single sermon since the ambassadors were recalled from Doha; his sermons usually thundered against those who “depart from the foundations of true Islam – the Saudis.”
The crisis even reached a point where a member of the administration of Dubai’s security service, General Dhahi Khalfan, named Qatar a part of the United Arab Emirates. He demanded that signs bearing “You are now entering the eighth United Arab Emirate” be posted at the border between the UAE (which currently consists of seven Emirates) and Qatar.
The statement of the General, who is known for his sharp criticism of Qatar for their support of the Muslim Brotherhood, was printed in Fars, an Iranian news agency, which also noted that this statement will “further escalate the tensions between Abu Dhabi and Doha.” It should be mentioned that the story of Qatar’s sovereignty begins in 1968, as it was previously under Great Britain’s protectorate since 1916.
In 1968, Qatar, Bahrain and the seven kingdoms of Trucial Oman decided to create the Federation of Arab Kingdoms, the precursor to the modern day UAE.
However, three years after the fact, on September 3, 1971, Qatar left the Federation, changed its name to the State of Qatar and declared its independence. But the gallant general does not seem to be phased even by these historic events.
At the same time, Riyadh, who has finally found success in the Arab arena with respect to Qatar, has decided to “tighten the screws” even tighter within the country.
The Saudi Arabian court has sentenced 13 people to incarceration of between one and ten years on the count of aiding and funding militarists who were fighting for extremist organisations abroad, Saudi Press Agency reports. They were also accused of illegal weapons possession, money laundering and harbouring wanted criminals.
In February of this year, king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a decree making punishments more severe for those who fought for extremist organisations abroad (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria) as well as those who aided them.
The Saudi administration is seriously worried that the militants who will return home (according to several sources, there could be up to 20,000 of these terrorists from all Gulf countries) will pose a real threat to the kingdom’s security.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has announced that the human rights situation has worsened in Saudi Arabia. The human rights organisation has stated that the Saudi administration has not only failed to comply with the human rights reform promises made to the UN four years ago, but has instead worsened repressions with respect to those of other faiths, BBC reports.
In its report Saudi Arabia: Broken Promises, Amnesty International also states that peaceful protestors, in particular the Shiites, could face wrongful arrest, unjust court decisions and torture during investigations.
It was earlier reported that the human rights organisation has accused the country’s Internal Affairs Minister of attempting to obtain additional extrajudicial powers that would allow him to trample civil liberties with complete impunity.
Amnesty International points to the draft bill where “damaging the nation’s reputation” is equaled to an act of terrorism.
It should also be noted that according to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia is the third country in the world, after China and Iran, with the greatest number of carried out executions.
Thus, after an official visit from American President Barack Obama, Riyadh has decided to switch to the offensive in all internal and external policies. The Qatari arm-twisting (and for how long?) and the tightening of laws inside the kingdom are a clear sign of this.
Viktor Mikhin, member and correspondent for the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
Editing: Jim W. Dean and Erica P. Wissinger
Jim W. Dean was an active editor on VT from 2010-2022. He was involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews.
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