Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Qatar, Misleading ‘Under Siege’ Rhetoric | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Buildings are seen on a coast line in Doha, Qatar June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer –

Victim to the detrimental foreign policy adopted by Doha, the Qatari citizen perhaps is the most forgotten amidst the diplomatic row engulfing the region.

For years, Qatar’s government invested in harboring and supporting extremist groups, and was well-occupied with harming its neighbors. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt chose to cut off ties with Doha, closing its only open-land border.

Comfortable in the leverage provided by a Gulf Cooperation Council membership and a US military airbase, Qatar systematically targeted regional countries. But rules to the game have changed, especially now that strategic and powerful regional players have come together for a boycott.

Borrowing from Saddam Hussein and Hamas rhetoric, Qatar authorities felt the painful sting of exploiting its citizens in order to explain sanctions that have befallen the country. Doha repeatedly fell back on saying that sanctions targeted Qataris.

Sensing the danger in its hostile policy for the first time, Qatar now understands the stakes. Relentlessly, Doha worked on dismantling Arab societies through promoting and supporting extremist ideology and funding armed factions.

With ‘support’ speaking for itself, internationally-wanted groups and terrorists have rushed to defend Qatar today—al-Qaeda’s Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Kuwait’s ultra-hardline Salafist and Qaeda fundraiser Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali and dozens alike have sided with Qatar over social media platforms.

A majority of extremist figures recently blacklisted by Arab and US countries are either currently based in Qatar, or one way or another are supported by its government. Four Arab countries had named in a statement 59 people, including Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, and 12 entities, among them Qatari-funded charities Qatar Charity and Eid Charity.

In a region ravaged by chaos and instability, Qatar has somehow managed to enjoy relative tranquility, save for an assassination and a bombing tacking place in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was killed when a bomb ripped through his SUV in the Qatari capital, Doha. Authorities then arrested Russian officials believed to be involved in the assassination, sentencing them to life in prison. But after Russian threats weighed in, Doha released the perpetrators with them having spent only a few days behind bars. They were later given a heartfelt red-carpet welcoming in Moscow.

In 2005, a suicide-bombing had targeted a British school in Doha which killed at least 13 people.

In the case of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Qatari policy was unbearably destructive. Qaeda offshoots that Saudi Arabia fought against for years on were given a voice in Doha, as its state-funded media blatantly allowed them a platform whereon they can call for attacks against the kingdom.

Riyadh, Cairo, Tunisia are among the capitals that suffered the spilling of innocent blood, to which they responded with protests on a diplomatic level only.

Faced by legal punitive measures, Qatar will capitulate. But it will most likely use cunning politics and ploys to weasel its way out of commitments, as it always does.

Sounding more like a joke, and less than a serious cry for help, Qatar labels the multi-lateral initiative taken to reverse its destabilizing regional policies as an “oppressive siege”.

Qatar, by no means, is under a ruthless blockade! Doha’s airspace and water corridors remain open, save for those intercepting the territory of countries joining the boycott. It remains to be said that Qatar enjoys massive resources and is able to import its needs from Europe and Australia’s most luxurious markets, and having them delivered to Doha by its giant air fleet.

With little land to go around, Qatar has an easily affordable low population, with most of its residents being in one place.

Trying to reproduce the underprivileged scenario found in Gaza in hopes of manufacturing sympathy across the Arab and world public opinion is not befitting to Qatar’s prosperous image and reputation.

Doha’s authorities are being boycotted and not besieged. All that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have done was preventing Qatar from using their land, air and sea corridors, which is an act of sovereignty and is backed by international law.

The ban is civilized compared to Doha’s employment of rogue policy to destabilize neighboring states.

A price must be paid for disrupting relations with neighboring states—Qatari carriers will pay that price by traveling longer hours after losing access to Saudi, Bahraini and UAE airspace.

Qatar Airways lost a monthly 1,200 flights–somewhere around a quarter of a million passengers– with Saudi Arabia alone, while Saudi Arabian airliners lost only a 120 flights per month.

This is the high price of authorities in Doha have to pay over the dispute– it may not care much for its financial losses as much as it is bothered by its top air carrier losing its international reputation.

Although that the boycott affects Doha financially, morally and politically, it is not a blockade so long its ships and aircrafts are able to travel and trade with the world.

The siege should cut all the corridors- a measure tested with Iraq before- and therefore have to search for convincing excuses, or think of reconciliation, before the pressure increases and more countries join the ban.