Qatar: Reshaping of international relations in the Middle East, Political meddling and the spectre of Terrorism

Why are Arab states cutting ties with Qatar? 

Image result for qatar uae countries map

To understand this issue, we need to go back to the birthplace of the Arab Spring which began in Tunisia in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, on December 17, 2010. Mohamed Bouazizi, a twenty-six-year-old produce vender, refused to pay a petty bribe and municipal inspectors tried to confiscate his crates of fruit and his electronic scale, and when he resisted a policewoman slapped him in front of a crowd. Tunisia is the only country to emerge from the Arab revolutions of 2011 as a functioning democracy in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In contrast, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria have either returned to dictatorship, descended into chaos and anarchy. 
 
Why Egypt? 

Al Qaeda reacted to these dramatic events with near silence on the 25th February 2011 with the exception of a statement from Osama bin Laden’s Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said, “we will use Egypt to be the center for terrorism, but that the Tunisian revolution occurred “against the agent of America and France,” in an audacious trying to transform the Tunisians’ fight against corruption and repression into a victory for anti-Western jihadists.  

U.S. politicians quickly moved to claim that the revolutions and Al Qaeda’s muted response were victories in the struggle against terrorism. “This revolution is a repudiation of al Qaeda,” declared Senator John McCain during a visit to Cairo on February 27, 2011. And indeed, looking out from Bin Laden’s cave, the Arab world looks less promising than it did only a few months ago. Although Bin Laden and al Qaeda have been attempting to overthrow Arab governments for more than 20 years, the toppling of the seemingly solid dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt caught them flat-footed and undermined their message of violent jihad. 

Nevertheless, Al Qaeda and its allies could ultimately benefit from the unrest. For now, Al Qaeda has greater operational freedom of action, and was said that Bin Laden and his allies will seek to exploit any further unrest in the months and years to come. 

As far as Egypt was concerned, the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the country after 18 days of protests that spilled out from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, President Hosni Mubarak handed power to military’s ruling body. Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, was tipped to lead the cabinet. The constitution was duly suspended and the parliament was disbanded with immediate effect.  

On May 23rd, 2012, the Presidential Elections began and the first round of voting in presidential elections narrowed a field of 13 candidates down to two finalists: Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, and Ahmed Shafik, the last Prime Minister under Mubarak. 

Dr Mohammed Morsi, on the 30th of May 2012 became the first Islamist to be elected as head of state and the first civilian leader in Egypt. He promised to be a president to “all Egyptians” and opened his suit jacket to show the cheering crowd that he was not wearing body armor — underscoring the idea that he was not afraid. But the military’s power grab weeks earlier set up a bitter power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular military. Egyptian society at this juncture had rejected the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood being in power and there had also been a coup by the military quite unwilling to be governed by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

On Jan. 25 2013, the plan to oust the president changed and protesters returned to Tahrir Sqaure on the two-year anniversary of Mubarak’s ouster, Hundreds of thousands gather in Tahrir Square for another protest against Morsi and what they perceived as his abuse of power. Protesters clash with police in Cairo and across Egypt, and more than a 100 were injured in the violence. 

Sisi appeared on state television to ask Egyptians to take to the streets again in support of the military’s fight against terrorism. On July 25,2013. the Muslim Brotherhood and the military were at loggerheads and a stalemate ensued that led to the security forces moving in and killing at least 600 people and wounding thousands more in the process.

Through these events, it should be said that Qatar was the main mastermind in Egypt, which strengthened Sisi’s alliance with Arab countries with a view to countering the cancer of terrorism. 

“Sisi” decisions: Sisi is the mastermind of these decisions 

Several Arab nations last month cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, citing the country’s alleged support for Islamist groups and close relations with Iran. 

In addition, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) announced on June 5 that they would withdraw their diplomatic staff and sever all contacts with Qatar. Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting ISIS (Islamic State), and Al-Qaeda.” As they seek the destruction the Arab East by using multiple terrorist and sectarian groups...including the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar was accused of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia added that Qatari troops would be removed from the ongoing war in Yemen and that it would “shut its land border with Qatar” effectively cutting the nation off from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.

We should add that this is not the first time that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar to protest its support for the Muslim Brotherhood as diplomatic relations broke down three years ago. 

Yemen’s and the internationally recognized government in Libya followed regional allies in cutting ties with Qatar with immediate effect. Bahrain said this decision was the result of what it called Qatar’s “media incitement, its support for armed terrorist activities, and funding linked to Iranian groups designed to create chaos in Bahrain with a view to destroying the fabric of the nation. Moreover, Abu Dhabi gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said “all attempts to stop [Qatar] from supporting terrorist groups failed  “ Qatar Fear”, Qatar said there was “no legitimate justification” for the decisions taken by its Arab neighbours. 

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it regretted the move, saying that “the measures were unjustified and based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact.” in the same way, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV quoted the ministry as saying that the decisions would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents “.  In Tehran, a senior Iranian official said the decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar would not help end the crisis in the Middle East.  

Qatari News Agency reported that President Donald Trump of the USA was the catalyst for this rise in “tension” in the Middle East and that the country would withdraw its ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E with immediate effect.

The fake article that circulated online which has also contributed to this crisis also quoted Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as saying Iran is an “Islamic power” and that Qatar’s relations with Israel are “good.” 

In conclusion, the escalating confrontation between Qatar and other Sunni-led Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt) presents a new and unwelcome complication for the United States military, which has made strenuous efforts to forge a broad coalition against the Islamic State to destruction and control of the Middle East. 

One can argue that exacerbated tensions in the Middle East might have consequences for the GCC, which is the most powerful bloc in the region in the days. Weeks, months and years to come. 

By Miral Alashry 
Assistant Professor  
Canadian international college ( CIC)   
Department of Journalism