FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Punishing Qatar

Are we in need of distractions?  The political masters obviously think so.  There have been hackings, cuttings, slayings and crushing events.  As battles continue raging in Syria and northern Iraq, European cities face the next round of urban slayings.

As that was taking place, eyes in the western media were taken off brewing troubles among the Gulf States.  Eager pots have been calling kettles the most unspeakable things. (Not so much black as crispy charred.)  No one would have been surprised by calling out that tenured terrorist state known as Saudi Arabia for its various actions in Yemen and its own vicious brand of fundamentalism advertised globally.

Yet it was Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya insisting that Qatar was the destabilising influence in the region. (The others were naturally innocent of that.)  All land, air and sea traffic would be halted with the state, while diplomatic missions would be removed.  Qatari citizens would also be given their marching orders, having to leave within 14 days.

Disagreements between Doha and Riyadh are far from new. Being eager practitioners of censorship and media control, Riyadh has shown little time for such bold media efforts as Al-Jazeera. Bristling at what it has deemed negative coverage, officials in Riyadh have repeatedly insisted that Qatar be rebuked for backing its own horses in the Islamist struggle, much of this borne by the rumblings of the Arab Spring.

The Islamic Brotherhood is top of that list, and what is not surprising by looking at the list of states intent on strangling Qatar is that they have taken a dim view about the populist aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Egypt, an elected head of state from the organisation was deposed in a coup that re-established the primacy of the military.  Qatar’s backing of Mohamed Morsi’s short stint at the helm was well and truly noted. In a measure of placation, Qatar closed down Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr, its twenty-four hour news channel in Cairo.

Since then, spats have grown in number.  Ambassadors have been sporadically recalled.  In September 2002, Saudi Arabia did so over what it regarded as unfavourable coverage of a Saudi plan which entailed normalising ties with Israel in exchange for a peace deal with the Palestinians.[1]

In 2014, the three Gulf States intent on punishing Qatar also withdrew their ambassadors citing the usual grounds of interference in internal affairs and “jeopardizing regional security”. Those concerns have not changed, and the move of severing ties and effectively shutting off Qatar is a measure of how dissatisfied the other state have been towards Doha’s efforts.

More recently, Qatar’s efforts to secure the release of a group of falconers, among them members of the royal family, captured by a Teheran-backed Shia group in Iraq, drew attention from Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. The intended ransom could well have run into a billion dollars.[2]

The isolating move has trigged obvious consequences.  Qatar has become a place of strategic importance for various powers.  The US, for one, has its largest airbase in the Middle East located in the state.

Nor has the provocative move gone unnoticed by others who have thrown their weight behind Doha. The Turkish parliament has passed legislation drafted in May permitting the deployment of troops to the country’s military base in Qatar. In 2015, Turkey’s ambassador to Doha, Ahmet Demirok, forecast an eventual troop number of 3,000.[3]

Then comes that important matter of aviation.  Qatar’s flag carrier, Qatar Airways, has had to re-route flights over Turkey, Iran and Oman, given the forced closure of airspace to their planes.  On Tuesday, 70 flights were grounded.

Other airline carriers will be delighted by the move, given the relentless rise and appropriation of key routes of travel from Europe to Asia and Australasia by the Middle Eastern carriers. The gesture of isolating Qatar is looking, at best, one of economic self-harm, affecting such carriers as Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Dubai’s Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s Saudia and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.

The demands this time for resolving this monumental tiff are bound to be even steeper than they were in 2014.  Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi makes his own hazard at a set of guesses, and it involves a conventional, authoritarian ploy: muzzle media coverage, entailing the “shuttering of the Al Jazeera TV Network before any mediation can take place” (Newsweek, Jun 5).

That will just be the beginning.  The main course will feature the expulsion of Hamas figures and affiliates, along with such undesirables as Islamist writer Yasser Al-Za’atra and Azmi Bishara.  For dessert, the Egyptians will wish for a cessation of any pro-Morsi coverage, while the entire collective will push for shackles to be placed on charitable organisations.

Such demands are what is conventionally called unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of another state, but the despots of the Gulf are bound to miss that irony.  What Qatar is accused of will not only be matched but surpassed.

Notes.

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/qatar-may-have-pay-heavy-price-restore-links-its-gulf-neighbors-620948

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/qatar-ransom-al-qaeda-iran-falconry-2017-6?r=US&IR=T

[3] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/turkey-fast-track-troops-deployment-qatar-170607151127104.html

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail