Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Saudia Arabia and Qatar " quiet supremacy battle " becoming an open secret ? Saudi Arabia deems Muslim Brotherhood a 'terrorist group' , move seen as not just as one directed at quashing dissent , but a rebuke to Brotherhood supporting Qatar ! The Friday move by Saudia Arabia follows the public dispute early this week at the GCC -- Arab States "Unprecedentedly" Withdraw Ambassadors From Qatar After "Stormy" Meeting !
Saudi Arabia deems Muslim Brotherhood a 'terrorist group'
March 7, 20149:30PM ET
Move seen as an attempt to quash dissent in country, and as a rebuke to Brotherhood-supporting Qatar
Saudi Arabia identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group" on Friday, warning those who join them or support them that they could face five to 30 years in prison.
A Saudi Interior Ministry statement said King Abdullah approved the findings of a committee entrusted with identifying “extremist” groups. The decree punishes those who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom, join the groups within Saudi Arabia or support them financially.
The king's decree followed the Saudi Arabia's enactment of a sweeping new counterterrorism law that targets virtually any criticism of the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been targeted by many Gulf nations since the July 3 military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, himself a Brotherhood member. Saudi Arabia has banned Brotherhood books from the ongoing Riyadh book fair and withdrew its ambassador from Qatar, a Brotherhood supporter. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates also withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar.
In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned Saudi Arabia's decision.
"It is one of the founding principles of the group not to interfere in matters of other states, and this new position from the kingdom is a complete departure from the past relationship with the group, since the reign of the founding king until now," the statement read.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Attie praised the decision, saying it "reflects the coordination and solidarity" between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He said he hopes that other countries make the same decision.
"We expect other countries to fulfill their responsibilities in the fight against terrorism," Abdel-Attie told journalists Friday.
The Saudi statement on the new law said it would also apply to any group identified by the United Nations Security Council or other international bodies as "terrorist" or "violent" groups. It said the law also would be applied to any Saudi citizen or foreigner residing in the kingdom for propagating atheism or pledging allegiance to anyone other than the kingdom's leaders.
The law may be an attempt to stem the flow of Saudi fighters going to Syria, Yemen and Iraq. The Syrian civil war is believed to have drawn hundreds of young Saudis, worrying some in the kingdom that fighters could return radicalized and turn their weapons on the monarchy.
Meanwhile in Qatar, outspoken Egyptian cleric Youssef el-Qaradawi did not deliver his usual sermon on Friday. The reasons for his absence were not made immediately public. His past sermons, in which he publicly criticized the UAE and other Gulf countries for their support of Egypt's new government in its crackdown on the Brotherhood, led to outrage among Qatar's neighbors who saw the comments as an attack on their sovereignty.
Arab States "Unprecedentedly" Withdraw Ambassadors From Qatar After "Stormy" Meeting
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar after it had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The move, unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), follows the Bahrain state minister for information Samira Rajab saying she hasevidence of Qatari media provocation against her country. As Gulf News reports, Qatar has been a maverick in the region, backing Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Not a good sign for the oil-generating center of the world.
The move by the three countries, conveyed in a joint statement, is unprecedented in the three-decade history of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Oman.
The statement said GCC members had signed an agreement on November 23 not to back "anyonethreatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals - via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media".
GCC foreign ministers had met in Riyadh on Tuesday to try to persuade Qatar to implement the agreement, it said. Media reports described the meeting as “stormy”.
"But unfortunately, these efforts did not result in Qatar's agreement to abide by these measures, which prompted the three countries to start what they saw as necessary, to protect their security and stability, by withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar starting from today, March 5 2013," the statement said.
The nations have also asked Qatar "not to support any party aiming to threaten security and stability of any GCC member," it added, citing media campaigns against them in particular.
Media reports have said that Shaikh Tamim was given an ultimatum by Saudi Arabia in the November meeting in Riyadh that was facilitated by the Kuwaiti emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmed. The new emir was told to change Qatar’s ways and bring the country in line with the rest of the GCC with regards to regional issues.The GCC has in particular been concerned about Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, its close relations with Turkey, its opposition to the new regime in Egypt and its perceived support for Al Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Relations between Qatar and the UAE have been rocky lately. A top UAE court on Monday sentenced Qatari national Mahmoud Al Jidah to seven years in prison followed by deportation after he was convicted with two Emiratis of raising funds for a banned local Muslim Brotherhood-linked group, Al Islah. The move was criticised by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, which is close to the government.
Early in February, in a rare move for Gulf countries, the UAE announced that it had summoned Qatar’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi for remarks made by controversial Egyptian-Qatari cleric Yousef Al Qaradawi. Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, expressed the UAE Government’s “extreme resentment” over Al Qaradawi’s statement. Speaking live on Qatari state TV from a Doha mosque, Al Qaradawi criticised the UAE for supporting the current Egyptian government. He claimed that the UAE “has always been opposed to Islamic rule”.
“We have held back so that our neighbour can clearly reject such insult, extend sufficient clarifications and guarantee that such provocation and defamation will not recur,” Gargash said then.
Qatar, which used to enjoy close relations with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey and Bashar Al Assad’s Syria, has in recent years found itself isolated after relations with Hezbollah, Iran and Al Assad deteriorated. The GCC’s decision is expected to further isolate the new emir.
Arab Spring 2.0?
Saudi , UAE , Bahrain points of view......
Qatar crisis could go two ways: ‘diplomacy or sanctions’
‘Turkey and the Brotherhood will do no good for Doha, only GCC will’
File photo, Arab gulf leaders from left to right, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Saeed, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai pose for a group photo before the opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consultative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said Wednesday, March 5, 2014 that they have recalled their ambassadors from the Gulf nation of Qatar over its alleged breach of a regional security deal in the clearest sign yet of the rift among Gulf Arab countries over Islamists in the region.
Abu Dhabi: The withdrawal of three Gulf envoys from Qatar has generated much speculation as to how the situation will turn out, culminating in two major analyses.
The two opposing views maintain that either Gulf diplomacy will succeed in stemming the tide of conflict, or that the crisis is prime for deteriorating further as time passes.
“Taking the Gulf Cooperation Council to a political abyss serves nobody’s interests. The peoples and leaders of the GCC member states should have a clear awareness of just how lethal a threat the abyss politics pose to everyone,” said Dr Yousuf Al Hassan, a leading Emirati political analyst.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have called back their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, citing contravention with GCC accords as the reason for the move
The three countries maintained the six GCC members had agreed not to support “anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals — via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media”.
The recalling of the countries’ envoys was “to protect their security and stability,” according to a statement issued by the three countries.
Dr Al Hassan stressed rebuilding bridges with Doha is likely to come to fruition as time passes with mediation by Kuwait and possibly Oman, and as the organisations the Qataris bet on decline and die away, he said, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood which Qatar purportedly supports.
“Naturally, we hope for the end of conflict with Doha because there is no complaisance with regards to resorting to sanctions against the Qatari regime,” Dr Al Hassan said.
His comments echoed those of Dr Abdullah Al Tamimi, who tweeted: “Iran is the only beneficiary of the dispute [with Qatar], for there will be no winner among the GCC countries.”
Dr Mohammad Al Hadla agreed and posted on his twitter account: “[The withdrawal of the envoys from Qatar] is an overdue but prudent move by far-sighted leaders. It’s an effective action against the Qatari leadership which opted to push the GCC into the abyss.”
However, Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a leading political analyst, said the unprecedented move by the three GCC members was made after their leaders ran out of patience towards Qatar’s policies supporting the Muslim Brotherhood movement and breaching the Gulf Cooperation Council’s policies and positions, particularly towards Egypt.
“Qatar could face sanctions clamped by the Gulf countries, including the closing of borders with Qatar, and airspace to it if Doha doesn’t stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” Dr Abdullah told Gulf News.
Dr Abdullah did not rule out the freezing of the relationship between the three GCC countries and Qatar.
He said leaders of the three Gulf countries believe that the Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani did not abide by the agreement he signed in a November summit in Riyadh in the presence of the Emir of Kuwait Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad three months ago to stop the use of the Qatari soil in actions that harm the interests of the Gulf countries.
Dr Abdullah noted that Saudi Arabia would lead any such sanctions against Qatar, citing Saudi accusation of Doha of supporting Al Houthi rebels in Yemen with money and weapons through one of the Qatari ruling family, as well as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Kingdom.
Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi, Chairperson of the Emirates Policy Centre, agreed and said the GCC countries made the move after they exhausted all means to bring Qatar back into the GCC’s fold.
“It seems that the Qataris are not aware that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is over. Neither Qatar, nor its allies, would be able to turn back time,” Dr Ebtisam said.
Dr Ebtisam added that neither Turkey, nor the Muslim Brotherhood would do any good to Doha. “Only sisterly Gulf countries are the real supporters of Qatar at good and bad times. Even the United States would not prefer Qatar to Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries,” Dr Ebtisam said.
Ali Jasem, a veteran member of the Federal National Council, agreed sanctions against Qatar would be an option down the line, because “there is no compromise when it comes to the Gulf security and stability.”
Mohammad Al Marar, a UAE citizen, went all the way to calling for military action against Qatar. “It is not enough to call back our envoys from Doha, we [the GCC members] should launch a military strike against Qatar to teach it a lesson about its actual size and standing,” he said.
Suggesting another difficult action against Qatar, Khalifa Mohammad tweeted: “Should Qatar pursue its schemes [against security of GCC countries], it will be thrown out of the GCC.”
His sentiments were echoed by Hamdan Al Shamsi, who expressed the hope that “the next step will be driving Qatar away from the GCC.”
Qatari response to the Saudis.....
Qatar ‘comfortable’ in political isolation
Onus on Saudi, Bahrain, UAE to bring country back in the fold
Dubai: The decision of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar in protest of the latter’s intervention in the formers’ domestic affairs, according to their joint statement, is a culmination of a set of attempts to reconcile a post-Hamad Qatar with Saudi-Emirati-Bahraini and occasionally Kuwaiti club.
There are already a number of articles that have captured the attempts of Kuwaiti mediation of this simmering crisis up to this moment.
The Qataris are trying to frame this incident as the latest act over fundamental disagreements and differing views on extra-GCC affairs (mainly Egypt). The statement by the three Gulf States has stated the opposite; to them it is primarily about Qatar’s intervention in their domestic affairs. A battle of narratives is upon us.
But this is a space that Qatar is very comfortable in. In many ways, Qatar excels as the underdog in the corner. Also, the scores of Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists in the gulf — some of whom it’s been rumoured have received funding from Doha — will sympathise with its position as an agent of change. The three countries need to do a better job at winning the narrative.
Aided by Al Jazeera, the Qataris will probably do a stellar job at appearing to be the new kid on the block bullied by bigger states run by elder shaikhs. The questions remain as to how serious those three countries are towards reorienting Qatar towards a more inclusive regional policy and more importantly how far they will go.
There has been talk for months of freezing economic cooperation, pressuring international players to choose between the three countries vs Qatar and even closing its airspace. This is the stuff of cold wars and everyone is holding their breath to see how far the Gulf’s troika is willing to go. From Qatar’s perspective, this is reminiscent of the early 2000s when the Saudis withdrew their ambassador there in protest of Al Jazeera’s coverage of Saudi dissident.
Eventually, the Saudis returned their ambassador but after Qatar affected Al Jazeera’s editorial policy on the kingdom.
In other words, they believe they’ve been there before and that they have more political and media resilience. The Qataris also believe that any severe economic sanctions and boycotts, which they can fiscally wither, will help bolster their position as bullied progressives and populists.
The onus is on the three to demonstrate their commitment to their stated goal of getting Qatar “back in the fold”. Qatar believes they will eventually blink. They will probably try to break the alliance and bolster their cooperation with the other two Gulf States, Oman and Kuwait. Qatar could for example offer Saudis a cessation of support for the Houthis in Yemen, a Shiite militant group they have been rumoured to support in return for some normalisation.
They could also offer them further cooperation from specific Islamic militias in Syria, which it allegedly finances. Such tactics could offer the Saudis very valuable regional diplomatic wins that would help it demonstrate capacity to lead in a post-American Middle East.
Having done this they could then work with Iran (with whom both states’ foreign ministers have recently met in Tehran and discussed expanding their shared gasfield) to pressure the Bahraini opposition to cease militant activities and return to the national dialogue initiative.
Qatar would probably offer Oman a bouquet of economic aid and investment and Kuwaitis with some easing of support of the opposition — whom Qatar has been long-rumoured to support — or even orchestrate a breakthrough with the government there.
This would leave the UAE at the forefront of the dispute with Qatar and would make it easier for the latter to characterise the UAE position as a fundamentally anti-Qatari/Muslim Brotherhood position due to disagreements on Arab politics instead of Gulf politics. From the Saudi-Emirati-Bahraini alliance perspective, it would seem apt to start expanding this alliance. Within the Gulf the Omanis are extremely unlikely to join.
The Kuwaitis have made their position as mediator clear. The expansion seems more likely outside the GCC but within the Arab world; Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and potentially Yemen come to mind. Also, the alliance could resort to political lobbying and the prospect of investments with global allies and partners.
So, it seems that Qatar has the advantage of experience in political isolation and resilience as well as Islamist sympathy; they are in familiar space. The trilateral group has the opposing advantage; they have never been this fed up with Qatar’s policies and may go all the extra miles they find before them. This could be the climax of two very opposed narratives for the region. Hold on tight.
Qatar rejects calls by Gulf states to alter foreign policy
Neighbours will not dictate policies to country, national newspaper editorials say
Qatari newspapers made their feelings known on growing pressure from fellow Gulf states regarding their foreign policy with Al Raya stating: “We don’t follow anyone … this is Qatar.”
Doha: The government of Qatar said it will not bow to demands from three Gulf states to alter its foreign policy, sources close to its government said, suggesting Doha is unlikely to abandon support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Islamists.
In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, saying Doha had failed to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs.
Hours later Qatar’s cabinet voiced “regret and surprise” at the decision by the fellow-members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but said Doha would not pull out its own envoys and that it remained committed to GCC security.
On Thursday, a source close to the Qatari government suggested Qatar would not comply. “Qatar will not let go of its foreign policy, no matter what the pressures are. This is a matter of principles which we will stick to, no matter the price,” the source said.
The source also suggested Qatar would not stop its practice of playing host to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Yousuf Al Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric and a vocal critic of authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“Since the day Qatar was founded we decided to take this approach of always welcoming anyone who seeks refuge in our country, and no amount of pressure will make us kick these people out,” said the source close to the government.
A source at the foreign ministry said: “It’s the right of every sovereign state to have its own foreign policy.” The source also suggested that Qatar had no differences with fellow Gulf Arab states on Gulf matters.
The dispute “is more about differences in foreign policy approaches”, the source added, referring to issues in the Middle East such as the crises in Egypt and Syria.
While the Qatari government’s official reaction was short and simple, the country’s newspapers, however, compensated the next day by publishing bold headlines lashing out at the Gulf trio.
Every major paper splashed their front pages with the story, largely echoing the government line that the decision was not based on intra-GCC disputes but an external issue: Egypt.
Qatar is the only Gulf state that has wholeheartedly supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and is believed to have extended that support beyond that country. The Gulf trio has welcomed the new military backed regime in Cairo that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi in July.
Qatar’s Al Raya ran a front-page editorial with the headline: “We don’t follow anyone ... This is Qatar”, over a picture of the emir, Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The piece argued that Qatar would not be dictated by any state, alleging that “those who have lost their bets in Egypt” are trying to create conflict with Qatar. The paper continued that the ambassadors’ recall was a “hasty step based on flimsy grounds and vague allegations”.
Al Watan daily ran a full page opinion piece by its editor in chief Mohammad Hamad Al Marri, with the headline: “O Gentlemen, Qatar is a sovereign nation”. The subheading read: “States are not governorates ... that do not have the right to choose their own foreign policy,” hinting at the perceived attempt at hegemony by its neighbours.
“Cheap media has been spreading ‘stories’ created by those who are spiteful and published by those who have been paid,” the article said, adding that the Gulf’s security is Qatar’s “red line”.
“This decision is a historical service for those in our countries who incite against us and seek to cause us harm, and it threatens the stability of every Gulf nation — without exceptions.”
Al Sharq had a significantly more toned-down opinion piece on its front page by the editor in chief Jaber Al Harmi expressing his “surprise” at the decision, arguing that the GCC’s security was a priority for Qatar, and that it would do all it can to protect it. He said Qatar was “open for dialogue on all issues, and had nothing to hide”.
Unlike many other newspapers that ran editorials or opinion pieces on their front page, Al Arab ran with news, reporting the government’s position that the decision to recall ambassadors was based on issues external to the Gulf, in reference to Egypt. In a full page opinion piece inside, the editor in chief Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Rumaihi said Qatar’s policies were driven by principles, not interests.