Qatar: Al Jazeera in the Middle
Though the diplomatic crisis in the Arabian Gulf seemed to be moving fast, it was headed to a predetermined destination: a standstill.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were set to punish Qatar, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council that was born in 1976 and that is now crippled by old age before it could walk.
The region went through the First Gulf war (between Iraq and Iran) and the Second Gulf War, (between Iraq and the rest of the Gulf states), and a third war which is still raging in Yemen. The fourth war is the current diplomatic war and it targets Qatar. This time, Al Sisi’s Egypt is in the anti-Qatar league, and so is Bahrain. In addition, there are many leaders in the region who are salivating to make a killing from the crisis at the expense of Qatar but as the Arab saying goes, “they have neither a camel nor a calf” in the conflict.
Though a number of countries have declared a blockade against Qatar, except Saudi Arabia and the UAE, they are second and third tier appendages in the crisis and have nothing to deny Qatar. In fact, until the latest crisis, most of them were beneficiaries of the Qatari largesse. And they cannot make a dent on Qatar.
The military powers that matter in the region are the USA, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The USA seems to be in a state of confusion while Russia is lurking there to make sure it is not sidelined in any planned arrangement. Turkey is clearly on the side of Qatar where now it has a military presence. Iran and Saudi Arabia have been in direct and proxy confrontation for a long time. Considering the alignments of power, if the crisis escalates it will drag on indefinitely. And there will not be any winner.
The USA might not be fully aware of what is going on because it seemed surprised by the thirteen-point demand that was sent to Qatar from its adversaries. The Kuwaiti mediators must have known the demands will not be met when they carried the memo to Qatar. Here are the demands put by the anti-Qatar camp as a precondition to lift their blockade. Qatar must…
- Downgrade its diplomatic representation with Iran.
- Close the Turkish military base that is being established.
- Sever its relations with several organizations–Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah of Lebanon, Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.
- Stop funding terrorist individuals and extremist elements.
- Must hand over wanted individuals considered terrorists.
- Close down Al Jazeera television and its affiliates.
- Stop interference in the domestic affairs of some countries and stop naturalizing their citizens and extradite them.
- Pay countries that were injured by Qatari policies.
- Submit to the 2013 Riyadh agreement and fall in line with the policies of the Gulf countries.
- Give full and detailed report and database of opposition entities it helped.
- Stop all direct and indirect support it provides to media outlets (several stations named).
- Agree to these conditions in ten-days, if not, they will be considered null and void.
- Report periodically on the above agreements and goals for the next ten-years.
The concern seems to be on item number five which is believed to be the main reason for the fury of the major countries blockading Qatar. However, Al Jazeera has become a force on its own and a step against Al Jazeera is an assault against freedom of expression that the people of the region will not take lightly. As it is now, it is more of those who support Al Jazeera against those who want to shut it down. Heralding war against a major champion of information in the region is not an easy matter.