On 5 June 2017, the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated 1967 Six Day War, Saudi Arabia announced that it was severing ties with Qatar. A few minutes later, the UAE did the same, followed by Bahrain and then Egypt. These four countries announced a boycott and siege against Qatar revealing that a plot had been hatched against their Gulf neighbour.
At the time, it was said that they were planning a military attack on Qatar and wanted to stage a coup there and arrest Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and the rest of the ruling family. They had a replacement ready, the Emir’s cousin, Sheikh Fahd Bin Abdullah, who is harboured by the UAE and being prepared for such a day. Turkey hastened to send troops to Qatar to protect Bin Khalifa and thwart the plot. At the time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he had lost a friend in Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi and did not want to lose another.
The coup failed, but the boycott and siege went ahead. The media in these four countries launched fierce and humiliating campaigns against Qatar and its ruler. The online “electronic brigades” helped to ignite more fires and deepen the differences while strengthening the boycott.
The Gulf crisis has become more complex and crazier. Meanwhile, the Arab League is still asleep, as if what is happening among its members is of no concern. It did not try to reconcile the two sides and lift the siege on a member state; instead, it may have helped to fuel the conflict. Saudi Arabia controls the league and its decisions. It is shameful that it only awoke from its slumber when reconciliation was almost agreed between the Saudis and Qatar under American auspices and with Kuwaiti support, at which time Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit welcomed the endeavours to resolve the Gulf crisis.
It is really unfortunate and sad that the Arabs seem to have forgotten that their main battle is against the Zionist enemy and have instead gone back to the days before Islam, Jahiliya — the time of ignorance — and the Dahis and Al-Ghabra war between rival tribes. In this second period of Jahiliya they have declared war on Qatar. Haven’t we suffered enough struggles, conflicts and divisions? There is no need to further divide and fragment us.
Without doubt, the four boycotting countries did not make their decision without consulting Washington and getting the green light, especially as it was less than a month after Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia when he obtained $450 billion from Riyadh. It was said that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman asked Prince Tamim for a contribution towards this from Qatar, but he refused and that this is where the problem between the two young rulers started.
Of course, the UAE’s own Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Zayed, sided with Bin Salman, who he had chosen himself and offered to the Trump administration. Making him the Kingdom’s de facto ruler instead of Mohammed Bin Nayef, the CIA’s man, strengthened Bin Zayed’s position with the White House. Bin Zayed is seeking to take Saudi Arabia under its wing and lead the Arab Gulf, and even all of the Arab countries up to the Horn of Africa. His ambition is limitless, extending beyond his small country, which is still not 50 years old.
Trump played both sides to revive the American economy, and filled the treasury with tens of billions of dollars. In his own words, he “milked them”. At the beginning, he fuelled the conflict by supporting the Saudi position and accusing Qatar of supporting terrorist groups. He then received the Emir of Qatar in Washington and praised his achievements in combating terrorism.
Lawyers and PR companies have flourished as a result of this conflict. The UAE is filing lawsuits to prove that Qatar supports terrorism, and Qatar is filing lawsuits against the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to prove that they send terrorist groups to Syria and Libya. Moreover, the UAE wants to whitewash its image in front of the world, and has handed this task to PR companies, and so has Qatar. Hence, they have spent billions of dollars in a futile struggle that achieves nothing while wasting Arab energy and resources.
There is no doubt that the arrival of Joe Biden on the scene really bothers the Gang of Four, especially Saudi Arabia, which wants to avoid any friction with the next US administration, not least because of its failure in Yemen after nearly six years of war. It wants a truce and to search for new allies, so it has started to grow close to Turkey. There are signs that the rift between Ankara and Riyadh is coming to an end, which is something we value and praise, as their alliance will form a major force in the Muslim world.
Moreover, just as Trump gave Riyadh the green light to boycott Qatar, he is ordering a reconciliation before he leaves the White House. He wants a small political achievement to show alongside the normalisation agreements that he brokered.
Reconciliation will be limited to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as Riyadh is rushing to close one of the files that could upset the Biden administration. Meanwhile, the UAE is busy pushing its relations with Israel forward, so that it is the exclusive agent of Tel Aviv in the region. It is not concerned with reconciliation with Qatar, as it now has the strongest and most important ally. Bahrain is in the same position, and totally infatuated with Israel.
As for Egypt, which went into a conflict in which it has no interests and agreed to be a subordinate to Saudi Arabia despite its size and weight on the international and Arab levels, its position is unclear. Egypt’s problem with Qatar is different from that of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, as it harbours opponents of the Sisi regime, and supports them through the media. I do not think that Egypt will seek reconciliation or respond to a request by Saudi Arabia or anyone else to end the siege. To do so would be to lose face and appear to be a client state rather than a pivotal country with high status, as it was before.
There is no doubt that every Arab hopes that the differences between the Arab countries will be resolved and would be happy for them to reconcile. We all know that such rifts weaken all of us; conflict and reconciliation to order should be taken off the agenda.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.