Speaking at a specialized forum to review the regional developments hosted by the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations in Tehran on Tuesday, Mukhtar Al Khalil shed further light on the Qatari crisis.
Six Reasons for the Start of Qatar Crisis
Noting that the Qatari crisis had its roots in tribal matters, Mukhtar Al Khalil said most of those who were astonished at the outbreak of the Qatari crisis were unaware of the facts behind the crisis. For the same reason they were incapable of offering realistic analyses of the situation. Here are six main reasons for the outbreak of the Qatar crisis:
- The state that is formed on the west coast of the Persian Gulf is not an endogenous phenomenon, but a structure brought in from outside and implemented to run a society. Governments in these states today have tribal roots and have been involved in conflicts over and over throughout history. In fact, many of them have been influential in the emergence of tribal conflicts and this trend continues. Thus, the Qatar crisis goes beyond political allegations such as links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Algerian politics, and relations with Iran, and has a tribal background, meaning that it has somehow contributed to the formation of tribal jealousies and has little to do with today’s political issues. Thus, jealousy and rivalry between tribes and tribal hatred and revenge have been at the heart of this crisis. Therefore, the Qatar crisis should not be sought in the context of conflicts of interest, but the historical background of the tribes in the region is the root cause of this crisis. Based on this same tribal background, the logic of the Saudi government has always been to deny the current borders and build its government on the basis of expansionism.
- The Palestinian issue was another reason for the Saudis and the Emirates to initiate the Qatar crisis. Qataris believe that their position on Palestine, whatever it is, cannot be a solution to the Saudis’ compromise. In fact, the Qataris have been in favor of resistance, contrary to the stance of the Saudis and the Emirates. So the Palestinian issue is at the heart of the Qatar crisis.
- The Arab Spring was the third cause of the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. While the Qataris opposed oppression in the Arab countries and took a sincere stance on the Arab Spring, the Saudis have difficulty with democratic trends, as can be concluded from the stance of this country vis-à-vis Yemen, Kuwait and Egypt.
- The next reason relates to the overall approach of Qatar’s foreign policy, which is inconsistent with the Saudi approach. While Qatar’s oil market is mainly in the east, the Saudi oil market is in the west. Qataris have good relations with most countries in the world, including Western countries, China, Russia and Iran, but Saudi Arabia, on the contrary, does not pay much attention to Russia and China.
- The next issue is soft power. Qatar is a small country with significant growth in soft power, which has angered the Saudis. Al-Jazeera’s network has given Qatar a global presence and power, and Qatar’s diverse investments in Western countries are also significant. However, the Saudis do not have any of these soft powers.
- Thanks to its gas resources, Qatar enjoys vast financial resources: something the Saudis do not like.
Reasons for Saving Qatar from Crisis
Al Jazeera Director of the Center for Studies further emphasized Iran’s role in rescuing Qatar from crisis. He noted: “Qatar’s power is much less than that of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain and its geography is 279 times smaller. While the gross domestic product of the three countries is $4 trillion, the figure for Qatar stands at just $300 billion. The three countries are 16 times stronger than Qatar militarily. Therefore, the situation in Qatar is not comparable to the status of these three states. But what kept Qatar from being sieged by the Saudis and the UAE was Iran’s position first and then Turkey’s. This is something the Qataris themselves acknowledge. But another reason for Qatar’s success was the correct use of soft, smart and efficient power.
Qatar Crisis Outlook
Regarding the future of the Qatari crisis, Mukhtar Al Khalil said: “The important achievement the Qataris made during the crisis was the creation of a strong national identity that enabled them to stand up to the Saudis. Due to lack of common sense, from the very beginning of the siege, the Saudis applied maximum sanctions and soon reached the end of the line and lost their sanctions tools. In addition, the 13 demands presented to Qatar by the Saudi-led coalition did not seek to negotiate with Qatar, but rather make it surrender. It was another mistake by the Saudis that prevented them from dragging the Qataris to the negotiation table. It also made world take a stand against these conditions.”
Overall, the Saudis and their allies did not gain anything from this crisis, and the current status of Saudi Arabia will not allow it to fulfill its goals in the future either. Meanwhile, military solutions have also no chance of success. The crisis in the future will see a partial solution in the interest of Qatar.
Future Direction of the Region
Commenting on the future of the region, Director of Al Jazeera Center for Studies said: “The (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council has practically lost its efficiency and it is a dead body now. Saudi Arabia is moving in a direction leading to its siege from various dimensions. Turkey is coming back to the region with power while being welcomed by governments and nations. Iran is also there and expanding its power and influence. Meanti9me, America’s role and influence in the region are also declining.
Mukhtar Al Khalil, stating that the relationship between Qatar and Muslim Brotherhood is political rather than ideological, stated: “Qatar’s relationship with the Brotherhood is one of political understanding rather than conformity on all matters. Therefore, Qatar-Brotherhood relations are not about total sodality but just political understanding and alliance. Although relations between Qatar and the Brotherhood will not improve in the future but they will continue.
UAE, Saudi Goals in Yemen
Commenting on the goals of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Director of Al Jazeera Center for Studies said: “The Emirates is seeking to take control of Yemen’s coasts and ports and is pursuing these goals in southern Yemen. The Saudis are also seeking to extend their gas pipes to the coast of Yemen. Accordingly, the two sides do not seek a united Yemen.”