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The shifts in the Gulf crisis

September 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, told a press conference with US President Donald Trump on Thursday that his country’s mediation had succeeded in stopping any military action in the Gulf crisis, which has been ongoing since 5 June. His comments revealed the true intentions of the boycotting countries regarding Qatar, confirming that the fabricated crisis started by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt three months ago had only one goal: to change the government in Qatar.

Furthermore, the Emir has thus also exposed the fact that the things being said about Qatar’s relationship with Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the allegations of funding terrorism, are all nonsense. The boycotters reacted immediately to the Emir’s statements and issued a statement of their own, insisting that “the military option has not and will not be proposed.”


None of this is surprising, especially to those who are following the developments in the crisis closely. Since the very beginning, the countries leading the boycott have sought to achieve a quick and decisive victory over Qatar. If it weren’t for the latter’s swift action at home and abroad, its refusal to get carried away by the escalations, let alone the boycotting countries’ strategic foolishness and high expectations, the situation would be different now.

There are many indications that confirm the military option was proposed by the boycotters since the beginning of the crisis; if nothing else, it was certainly not ruled out completely. For a start, Saudi Arabia et al did not issue any clear demands and the statements made by their officials were contradictory. Sometimes they would justify the crisis by the relationship between Doha and Tehran, and sometimes by Doha’s relationship with the Brotherhood. They also accused Qatar of funding terrorism without providing any evidence. This continues to confuse potential mediators, who pressed the countries for specific demands.

Moreover, when the list of 13 demands was eventually made public, they were too vague and unrealistic for anyone who wanted a genuine solution to the crisis to take them seriously. This was even before they were considered null and void.

Read: Trump discusses Gulf crisis with Qatari Emir

We then have the various rumours spread at the beginning of the crisis to consider. They referred to Egyptian troops advancing towards Bahrain via Abu Dhabi. We were also told about an advisor of the Sudanese President; General Taha Osman was arrested at Khartoum Airport, apparently as he was trying to flee to Saudi Arabia after being exposed as conspiring with Abu Dhabi to carry out a military coup in Qatar.

Then there was the statement of Qatar’s Defence Minister, Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah, who said that his country “is prepared to defend itself if necessary.” This sent a clear message to the blockading countries and others regarding the danger and seriousness of the crisis. Finally, we have witnessed clear and unprecedented incitement against Qatar by the media in the boycotting countries.

Since the beginning of the crisis, it has been clear that it was created and intended to be long-term and that the boycotting countries will not back down from their desire to change the situation in Qatar so that the government will align itself with their vision for the region. Those monitoring the media coverage, especially in Saudi Arabia, will find that it has crossed all of the red lines in the relationship between Riyadh and Doha. The government and media in Qatar have not followed suit, refusing to escalate the situation and hoping for a chance to improve relations in the future.

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Hence, the boycotting countries were and still are planning to change the government in Qatar by any means possible, including military force. When this was exposed — and so failed to take off, albeit temporarily — they moved on to tampering in other ways, such as trying to spread confusion and division within Qatar and promoting marginal figures as alternatives to govern the small Gulf State. It has been nauseating to watch.

Saudi Arabia and its boycotting cohorts continue to reject all regional and international mediation to resolve the crisis. Most recently this was pressure from Donald Trump which resulted in a phone call between the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, but Riyadh announced the suspension of contact with Doha under the pretext of “altering” what was said in the phone conversation.

This means that we are facing a new shift in the path that the Gulf crisis is taking; it is moving from a political conflict to an existential affair. This shift complicates matters and pushes the crisis to a new level, where all cards will be played after the intentions and calculations have been revealed.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 11 September 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.