Qatar’s support for international terrorism has resulted in a blockade by nine governments who have severed ties with Qatar since June 5th. Five other countries have downgraded their ties with Qatar to pressure the emirate to change its policies regarding groups like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other extremists.
It seems unlikely the conflict will escalate into open war. Qatar is home to the largest U.S. Military base in the Middle East.
(In popular American culture, Selina Meyer, Julia-Louis Dreyfus’s character on the season finale of Veep, instituted her own Qatari blockade, dumping her wealthy Qatari boyfriend so that she could prepare for another run for president in the HBO show’s 7th season next year, without any “Muslim baggage”.)
The Arab-led coalition seeks to end Qatar’s support for terrorist groups like Hamas and to end the use of the country by terrorism financiers. Another important goal is to end Qatar’s support of hate preachers like Yusuf Qaradawi, an Islamic thinker who has used convoluted reasoning to suggest that suicide bombers are permissible from a religious perspective. His opinion flies in the face of centuries of previous Islamic jurisprudence. However, given access to Qatari media outlets like Al-Jazeera, he can amplify this voice.
During Ramadan the people of Qatar faced shortages. Around the same time, the ruler of Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim attended a lavish Ramadan dinner which was attended by Yusuf Qaradawi.
While Qatar’s rulers were busy entertaining Qaradawi, the other Arab states were working on a way through the crisis. Saudi Arabia put forward 13 principles which Qatar must abide by to end the blockade.
The demands are basically to shut down Qatari state-backed media and its ties to terrorist groups. Also, Qatar must downgrade ties with Iran and Turkey. Iran is a terrorist threat. While the Gulf states all have a favorable view of Turkey, the issue is that even a small Turkish military presence will only add more tinder to a combustible reason.
U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson has conceded that the demands “will be very difficult to meet,” however the alternative – a continued Qatari support for terrorism is unthinkable.
Indeed Tillerson, in a press statement, noted that the principles could serve as a road map out of the crisis. The statement says that it “significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to a resolution.”
Taken on their whole the agreement is one which will re-establish order and peace in a region and return the rogue state of Qatar into the fold of honorable nations.
The 13 principles come after several previous efforts to end the crisis. Qatar’s Tamim previously turned down an overture from President Trump to meet at the White House to solve the dispute. Both Kuwait and Oman have also tried to intervene in a manner to end the crisis.
Qatar has already rejected the demands as a dead letter. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “siege of Qatar is unacceptable” in a statement last week after the principles were unveiled.
However, despite the difficulties the White House should pressure the government of Qatar to accept these demands or risk losing the right to host American forces. We cannot allow a country to be our ally during the day and send money to terrorists at night. Qatari elite need to reconsider these policies and these modest reforms will help preserve its status as an important U.S. ally and save its chance to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.