Qatari Crisis And The Future Of Small States – OpEd
By MD. Afroj*
Qatar is currently going through one of the worst time in its history. The three strongest Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates — along with Bahrain supported by many other Arab states in a unilateral move cut diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Qatar.
Diplomatic relations has fallen to its nadir. The Qatari Airlines is not allowed to use the Air Space of these countries as well as these countries have banned their flights from flying to Doha.
Qatar has been accused of supporting Iran (Iranian backed groups in Yemen and Hezbollah), the Muslim Brotherhood and also using its state run global TV network Aljazeera for propaganda purposes to undermine the security of other Gulf States. As a result, these countries have tried to bring Qatar to its knees by cutting off and isolating it from rest of the world. In responding to this diplomatic crisis the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, “expressed its deep regret and surprise at the decisions to close their borders and airspace, and sever diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar” and claimed that these measures are unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.
Responding to the regional crisis the White house appealed to the GCC (Gulf cooperation Council) to remain united. Any kind of misunderstanding will undermine the commitment of GCC to fight against terrorism as single body. The US position in this crisis is confusing. Since Qatar hosts the largest US military base in Middle East.
In this whole period of uncertainty and disappointment Turkey reached out for the rescue of Qatar. The Turkish government assured that the supply of food and basic items will fill the gaps caused by the ban by GCC members. Turkish parliament also approved a legislation allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar to ensure safety of Qatar.
The tension escalated further when American president Donald Trump hinted that Qatar has been funding terror groups. But after the telephonic conversation with Qatari Emir and in White House press release, Trump emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology. Trump offered to help the parties to resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Emir was traveling all the concerned parties to bring them to negotiation table in order to resolve their differences through dialogues.
In his statement Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said “Qatar had never experienced this type of hostility, even from an enemy country.” He went further and said that the Qatar will never surrender the independence of its foreign policy. He also said the Emir of Qatar would not travel to Washington for GCC crisis talks suggested by US President Donald Trump because he did not want to leave his country while it is “in blockade.” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also offered mediation if “desired by all parties”.
In this difficult situation Qatar as gesture of brotherhood ensured that it will not block the supply of Gas to UAE. The Qatar Petroleum CEO in his statement said that any such move could harm the UAE economy. Qatar will not harm its Brotherly countries. Even Qatari Emir without any hesitation congratulated Mohammed bin Salman on his appointment as crown prince of Saudi Arabia in a time his country is facing the worst type of crisis created by Saudi and its allies.
Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia came out with its thirteen points demands to end the crisis. These demands included shutting down of Al Jazeera Media Network, closing Turkish military base, scaling down ties with Iran, severe all alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas. Qatar was given ten days to respond to the demands. Qatar categorically rejected these demands and said that these demands are neither ‘reasonable nor actionable’.
More than four weeks has been passed, but any end to the suffering of Qatari people is not visible. World is divided among the supporters and opposition factions. But they no one is coming forward with a reasonable framework to end this crisis. The international organisations are helpless in this situation. The major powers themselves have not taken any position to help in solving the crisis.
Such a ganging up by the larger countries to punish or force a small and relatively weaker country to submit its sovereignty and independence over its foreign policy is a dangerous sign. If international community fails to provide an acceptable solution to all the parties for the problem, the question of small state sovereignty will be doubtful.
*MD. AFROJ is a research Scholar of International Relations at the Centre for West Asian Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Earlier, he was a South Asia Foundation Fellow at Pondicherry University. He can be reached at [email protected]