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Thursday, July 18, 2024

A year of blockade: Qatar stands firm

News Analysis |

A year ago, Gulf quartet Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt decided to impose an air, land and sea blockade against Qatar for keeping a soft corner for Iran and supporting extremist outfits like Muslim Brotherhood. A fake news story planted by hackers, which attributed some harsh comments on behalf of Emir of Qatar directed toward Saudi king and rulers of other neighboring states, served as the basis for the crisis. The fake news was aired on several UAE and Saudi-owned networks in the Gulf, sparking a diplomatic breakdown.

The incident came just two days after President Donald Trump met Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh. On May 24, authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE also blocked Al Jazeera’s website.

Qatar responded to these coercive actions by saying that there was “no legitimate justification” for the actions taken by the four countries to sever diplomatic relations.

It added that the decision was a “violation of its sovereignty” and that it will work to ensure that these actions do not affect the citizens and residents of Qatar. Throughout, Qatar has strongly rejected the accusations leveled against it, viewing the campaign as an attempt to impose custodianship over the tiny nation.

Read more: King Salman seeks support from Macron to intervene in Qatar’s procurement of S-400

“The countries who imposed the blockade on the state of Qatar repeatedly interfere in the internal affairs of many countries, and accuse all those who oppose them domestically and abroad with terrorism. By doing so, they are inflicting damage on the war on terror,” Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September. “We have refused to yield to dictations by pressure and siege,” he added.

This is exactly what Qatar has done; not yielding to dictation and demands which are against the sovereignty of the state. The quartet wanted Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera News network, an international state-funded 24-hour English-language news and current affairs TV channel, along with a Turkish military base.

Read more: Middle-east deck rearranges: Iran and Qatar coming closer together?

Despite the fact that the news which led to such escalation between Qatar and other Gulf countries was declared as fake and a result of a cyber breach into the website of Qatar’s state news agency, the stern response from Saudi Arabia and allies hints a hidden objectives at play behind the blockade.

The real and understandable reason for the cold shoulder toward Qatar is that it does not share hostility, with equal intensity, against Iran as rest of the Gulf States do.

This perception was reinforced today when addressing the International Security Council in Qatar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Khalid Al Attiyah said that Qatar has “a lot of differences” with Iran but that does not mean “we go and fuel a war” in the region. “Is it wise to call the United States and to call Israel to go and fight Iran? Whether any third party is trying to push the region or some country in the region to start a war in Iran, this will be very dangerous,” he said.

He did not explicitly mention what he meant by ‘the third party’ but given the antagonism which Saudi Arabia shares vis-à-vis Iran, it is understood that he was referring to the warmongering attitude of the Kingdom.

There have been several investigative stories by international media houses which point fingers at Saudi Arabia and UAE, something which they accuse Qatar of, as far as terror financing is concerned. But both these Arab countries are highly significant for the United States with respect to its economy. United States’ largest exports are the state- of- the-art sophisticated weapons and Arab countries are its largest international buyers. This is precisely the reason why the United States has been standing with Saudi Arabia and UAE over their stand against Qatar. When he was asked whether Qatar’s air bases could be used to launch air strikes on Iran, al-Attiyah said that his country was not a “fan of war” and suppor­ted engagement and dialogue.