In a climate of outright confrontation, even the Gulf monarchies have been overtaken by a series of unprecedented events. The differences between Qatar on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other, have escalated into a full-blown diplomatic crisis with outcomes difficult to foresee.
– Federico PIERACCINI
Officially, everything started with statements made by Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that appeared on the Qatar News Agency (QNA) on May 23, 2017. A few hours before the conference between the 50 Arab countries and the US President, Al Thani was reported to have said the same words that appeared on QNA. The speech was very indulgent towards Iran and described the idea of an «Arab NATO» as unnecessary. The exact words are not known because the event in which Al Thani had made such incendiary remarks concerned military matters and was thus not accessible to the general public. Especially to be noted is that QNA denies having published words in question and attributed them to a cyber-attack.
The public dissemination of the Emir’s words on QNA promptly provoked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. Immediately, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and the Maldives took advantage of the confusion created by Al Thani’s alleged words by enacting a series of extreme measures while accusing Doha of supporting international terrorism (through Hamas, al Qaeda, Iran and Daesh). Qatar’s ambassadors in the countries mentioned were requested to return home within 48 hours, and Qatari citizens were given 14 days to leave Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At the same time, Riyadh proceeded to close its airspace as well as land and sea borders to Qatar, effectively isolating the peninsula from the rest of the world.
Realistically, what interest would Qatar have had in promulgating the words of Al Thani in order to antagonize Riyadh and Abu Dhabi? Even if the Emir had made such remarks, Doha would certainly not have given them to QNA to publish on its website. If it was not a cyber-attack, it was certainly a miscalculation on Doha’s part or, worse, possibly internal sabotage to damage the Al Thani family.
To explain the dynamics that have officially created this unprecedented situation, it is necessary to sift through the facts in order to discern reality from fiction.
There is no difference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar
The Saudi charge that Qatar supports terrorism is well supported by the facts, Doha having long supported terrorist groups in North Africa and the Middle East, from Libya to Syria through to Egypt and Iraq. The problem is that the one throwing the charge, Saudi Arabia, is as guilty of it as is the accused. Both countries have provided the financial backing for much of the extremism that has been infesting the globe for decades. The Saudi royal family is the ultimate expression of the Wahhabi heresy that historically corresponds to the ideology of al Qaeda. Riyadh’s support for terrorist organizations was complemented by the US neoconservative strategy designed to destabilize Afghanistan in the context of anti-USSR geopolitics, as admitted by the recently deceased Zbigniew Brzezinski.
The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has deep roots and affects not only the ideological difference between Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the increased religious tolerance of Doha as opposed to the ideological intransigence of Riyadh. …