I made my way to Heathrow, earlier this season, in a frantic attempt to flee to my parents’ house, situated in a city that overpowers Bath’s “Summer” by epic proportions: Dubai. I was looking forward to unlimited falafels, until I found out that my flight with Qatar Airways had been cancelled. Like a rather vengeful partner, the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt had severed all contact with Qatar the very same day in June. Thirteen implausibly ambitious demands were revealed for the blockade to be revoked. I thought it might be worth asking: How did Qatar get into this mess and what does it mean for the rest of us?
The stunningly aggressive diplomatic war was waged due to the peninsular state’s alleged funding of religious extremists aimed at destabilizing the region. But this support is hardly unique. Ideologies of the Muslim Brotherhood run in Jordan’s political system and even hold seats in Kuwait’s parliament. Why then, is Qatar singled out? Is there more to this Arabian tale than meets the eye?
Qatar has been in a broth all summer. Drying Supermarket shelves, sky-rocketing prices and expatriate claustrophobia have rocked the desert state. Tensions between Qatar and her neighbours have been simmering for ages. Doha has long had an unconventional foreign policy that does not fit with the rigid orthodoxy of the region and is seen as a threat to the Sunni solidarity. The coalition has also been bitter about Al Jazeera, a rare forum for diverse debate and advocacy in the Arab World, since its inception. But, the hostility is perhaps founded on the Qatari Emir’s attempt to improve ties with Shia-Muslim Iran – Saudi’s arch-nemesis.
In June this year the situation was brought to the boil at the dainty, surprisingly pale hand of the US preseident. The tangerine-hued leader’s trip to Riyadh empowered the king to move from silent treatment to a more confrontational approach. In his trademark candour, the twitter enthusiast announced that there no longer can be funding of Radical Ideology in the Middle East, and apparently “Leaders pointed to Qatar –look!”, thereby setting off his own little bushfire. Embarrassingly, Qatar hosts America’s largest military base, Al-Udeid. Pentagon officials acted quickly to subdue any damage caused, with flattery. A large part of the problem thus transpires because America’s policy toward the crisis is ambiguous. Mixed signals from Washington allow Arab regimes to mobilize different allies within the Trump administration as they continue to pursue their own agendas.
The story of Qatar is one that must be told. The Emir has cleverly adjusted international spotlight and gripped the stakes of the West, making the threat of hot water splashing outside the Middle East very real. Fault lines in the gulf may also be deepening as Arab nations, in their pursuit for regional allies, routinely support unsavory ideologies. The nations clearly overestimated Qatar’s fear of isolation. An unforeseen climax however came with the fact that Saudi Arabia failed to even reverberate its superiority in the Gulf. Most rulers have not wholeheartedly supported the campaign, but instead, like most of us dealing with a neighbour barking at his own dog, prefer to wait it out.
Forest felines in their battle for meat, pride and territory, hold an untold law that demands that cannot be reasonably met will never be met. There are only two ways by which quarrels in the Gulf can come to an end. The coalition must either quietly back down, settle for less than it has publicly demanded and passively retreat in the hope that Qatar will trim its sails. Or, it could aggressively drive the dispute beyond a point of no return. Eyes are on Qatar as its saga may be hinting at a trilogy.