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Will Tillerson Side with Qatar? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) Ceremony at the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet in Jeddah the top diplomats of the bloc of four countries boycotting Qatar over its support for terrorism and role in destabilizing the region. He will be confronted by a group of decisive foreign ministers who aren’t expected to roll back from a vow made to hold Doha’s government accountable to its deeds by imposing a firm blockade.

As far as unwinding the complicated situation that is the Qatar diplomatic crisis, Tillerson did not show any comforting details or reasons for optimism in his recent press conference. Contrawise, he used misplaced simplicity to deal with an intricate dispute.

The foreign minister proposed resolving the dispute by signing a memorandum in which Doha pledges to fight off terrorism. As if signing such papers is some great accomplishment!

Qataris have been beating around the edges, trying to buy time by turning focus to documents disclosing on Doha’s failure to comply with commitments it made at the Riyadh 2013 agreement, and its supplementary 2014 agreement.

Leaked documents published by CNN have exposed that Qatar’s ongoing media rabble-rousing rhetoric did not necessarily match confidential undertakings it committed to with regional states.

It is worth keeping in mind that the gas-rich peninsula was the first to divulge on confidential documents, when it revealed details concerning letters delivered by Kuwaiti mediation efforts and sent by the four boycotting states.

Hoping to weaken the bloc’s position, Doha handed over media outlets a 13-point list made by each of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

What makes Jeddah’s meeting difficult is that Tillerson seemed to sympathize with Qatar. In an eyebrow-raising move, the US top diplomat hastily reached the conclusion that Qatar’s demands are reasonable, without even listening to the viewpoints of other involved parties first.

If it suits his purposes, Tillerson is free to show leniency towards the Qatari position, but must also realize that such an inclination would further complicate an already difficult situation, and prolong the crisis.

Qatar’s policies and practices caused the four boycotting countries to suffer on financial, political, media and security levels. It remains to be said that they have unanimously made up their minds, particularly in light of recent developments that they believe to directly target their homeland stability and governments.

Tillerson cannot force reconciliation. However he can bridge a wide gap between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc of four since they all are US allies. That would be a better strategy than being biased to one party–especially that Qatar time and time again has violated commitments it made.

Tensions will continue to rise so long that Doha authorities refuse changing their hazardous policies. Doha’s behavior is well-known, and the boycotting Arab states are aware that it does not intend to change amid ordinary circumstances.

Safe in the knowledge that the ban comes to serve the purpose of defending their countries in a region dominated by chaos, the bloc of four will not roll back on their decision to curb Qatari harmful policy.

It is not reasonable to fight Iran’s expansionist agenda on one hand while allowing for Qatar’s government freely carry through with its detrimental policy.

Deterring the threat Qatari policy imposes is first and foremost the key aim of the boycott.

It is as simple as saying that these four countries face an existential threat if this goal is not met.

For the first time in its modern history, Egypt is launching a mass-scale war against terrorism. In that context, Qatar is viewed as an efficient party player which through secret funding and media propaganda supports and justifies the actions of terrorist groups and incites people against their governments.

Threat of the public street descending to chaos was faced by Saudi Arabia with evidence pointing towards Qatar foul play. The same goes to the UAE, which is a country that addressed the threat in its early stages through adopting zero-tolerance policies towards ultra-hardline groups and radical ideology.

Bahrain also had its fair share of suffering the hazards of Qatari policy.

How could Tillerson possibly convince four countries fighting a war for survival to simply reconcile with the responsible party? How many times should Qatar’s good intentions be tested? Especially that it had already failed so many times.

It isn’t only the bloc of four that are convinced that Doha is behind regional chaos, extremism and terrorism. There are other countries that share the same point of view.

Tillerson can help with saving Qatar from itself, before it suffers the consequences of its own harmful actions.