By Arab News
By Faisal J. Abbas*
The US-Qatar MoU on combatting terrorism and its financing, which was announced on Tuesday during the visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Doha, is an important development.
There is no doubt that the agreement goes hand-in-hand with the demands of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
Of course, the Qataris will argue that they acted unilaterally on this, and perhaps US diplomats will try to save Doha some face and claim that discussions began before the current crisis. This is partly true, as the Americans — like the Saudis and Emiratis before them — definitely would have talked to officials in Doha numerous times in the past.
However, no sane person would deny the reality that Doha has been under tremendous heat ever since the ATQ announced its boycott last month. At the time, even Tillerson himself advised Qatar — in a strongly worded public statement — to “do more, more quickly” to combat extremism.
It does of course remain a mystery why Qatar would accept, and act on such demands made by the US, yet consider the same requests a breach of its sovereignty when demanded by its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) or Arab countries.
Is it time to celebrate?
However, the main question now is whether or not this means that Doha has finally decided to give up on supporting terrorist groups and causing turmoil in the region.
I would say it is not time to party just yet. If anything was evident from the recent classified documents obtained by CNN, which show that Qatar had signed similar agreements in 2013 and 2014, it is that Doha cannot be trusted to mean what it says.
As such, I know for a fact that the ATQ countries will be watching closely — something Washington should also do in my opinion. In fact, the US administration should listen to the advice of its former Ambassador Dennis Ross, whose main criticism of Doha is its lack of transparency.
“The Qataris were not transparent with us in terms of what they did in Libya. I wanted them to be much more transparent than they were. I was concerned with their support for the (Muslim Brotherhood) and Hamas,” Ross recently told Sky News Arabia.
Given that most seem skeptical of Doha meaning what it says, I would argue it is now going to take some concrete steps by Qatar for anyone to start believing it this time.
Qatar could start by stripping citizens that are on the UN or US terror lists of their nationality, in the same way Saudi Arabia denounced Osama bin Laden in the past. It could also ban the Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi (who also has been given Qatari citizenship) from preaching at mosques, or blessing suicide attacks while speaking on Al Jazeera.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas.