Kuwait mediation fails to defuse GCC dispute over Qatar stands

The dispute casts doubt on US efforts to shape a regional unified front against terrorism.

Smiles no more. A file picture shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) meeting, in 2016, with the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (C) and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. (Reuters)

2017/06/04 Issue: 109 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mohammed Alkhereiji

London- Efforts by Qatar to defuse conflicts with fellow Gulf Arab countries through Kuwaiti mediation failed to materialise and media in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia continued to run criti­cal coverage of Doha and its ties to Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups.

The crisis stems from statements attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticis­ing US foreign policy and praising Iran carried on the official Qatari News Agency (QNA) less than a week after the Arab Islamic Ameri­can summit, leading to outrage in the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ig­nored and it is unwise to face up to it,” Sheikh Tamim was quoted as saying during a military graduation ceremony in Doha.

Although Doha claimed the QNA site had been hacked, analysts not­ed the emir’s reported statements were in line with Qatar’s foreign policy.

Kuwait hosted Sheikh Tamim on May 21 in an attempt to resolve is­sues between Riyadh and Abu Dha­bi. However, a report in Al-Riyadh newspaper, which is known to re­flect the official Saudi stance, gave signs that the trip was a failure and that members of the Qatari royal family were preparing for a coup due to the media campaign target­ing Saudi Arabia.

The newspaper’s front page car­ried a report that discussed “five coups in 46 years” in Qatar and pre­dicted that the “next coup” would take place in the near future.

Observers said the brevity of Sheikh Tamim’s trip and Saudi newspaper comments were indica­tions that talks in Kuwait did not achieve much. The Saudi leader­ship is said to have been unyielding especially that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud viewed the pledge signed by Sheikh Tamim with the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in the pres­ence of the emir of Kuwait, to re­solve the 2014 dispute, as still bind­ing.

Escalating matters was a cartoon carried on the Al Jazeera network website that depicted King Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and US President Trump in an unflattering light. This outraged many Saudis, leading to calls for the closure of the border with Qa­tar.

The latest dispute sheds doubt on the efforts by the Trump adminis­tration to shape a regional unified front against terrorism, despite the show of unity during the Arab Is­lamic American summit, which was Donald Trump’s first official inter­national trip as US president.

While Doha denies funding ex­tremist groups, Western counter­terrorism officials have stated that Qatar finances such groups as al- Nusra Front in Syria, Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood move­ment, which is banned in most of the GCC.

A White House aide told the Weekly Standard that the major achievement in the memorandum of understanding signed between the United States and the GCC in countering terrorism during Trump’s visit was getting Qatar on board.

The unidentified aide said: Qatar “is often the most recalcitrant on issues relating to terrorism financ­ing. Qatar’s former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was notoriously negligent in cracking down on do­mestic financiers of al-Qaeda in Syria. In particular Hamas, the Pal­estinian terrorist organisation, has received financial support as well as safe haven from Qatar for years. Ha­mas frequently holds meetings and conferences in the Qatari capital of Doha, including one [in May].”

Mohammed Alkhereiji is the Arab Weekly’s Gulf section editor.

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