Did the Qatar Boycott Fail?

Did the Qatar Boycott Fail?

Tuesday, 12 June, 2018 - 06:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
As part of a public relations campaign, a number of articles have been published since the boycott of Qatar began a year ago that glorify Doha’s steadfastness and success. Doha has clearly not stopped trying to end the dispute and restore relations, but it has not succeeded.

According to one of the propaganda reports, Qatar can withstand the “blockade” for 100 years, and the four countries that have severed ties with it will not succeed in undermining its economy or capabilities.

If Qatar has not been affected and does not care, why is it seeking — through all available means — to convince Washington to intervene and end the boycott? Why is Doha running in all directions and calling for an intervention to force Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to restore relations?

The four aforementioned countries are aware that Qatar is a small market and a large bank, and that due to its abundant funds, it can easily provide for the needs of its small market from anywhere in the world via air freight. From the very start, there was no illusion as to whether the economic weapon would or would not force it to compromise politically.

Why, then, has it been boycotted? The four countries complain that Qatar has been funding extremists and dissident groups that oppose them, and that it supports all attempts to cause internal chaos in these countries.

They have tried several possible solutions with Doha, including signing agreements, but still it did not respect them, so they decided to sever diplomatic, consular and economic relations with it. The closure of their airspace to Qatar and their land borders with it is a result of this.

The boycott has caused Qatar pain, though this is not an end in itself. There were 5 million passengers from Saudi Arabia transported by Qatar Airways every year. Their transfers have been completely stopped, and the figures announced by Qatari institutions are mostly diluted and do not reflect the real losses. But this will not push it toward bankruptcy.

So what has the decision to sever ties with the rogue neighbor Qatar achieved? It has achieved what the four countries desired, especially Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, since Egypt is less directly connected to Qatar.

The boycott has ended Doha’s interference in these countries’ internal affairs, after the criminalization of all forms of cooperation or dealings with any Qatari party or any party that could act as its agent. The internal networks working for Doha, which used to benefit from open borders, have been destroyed in these countries. The four countries do not need Qatar, neither politically nor economically, so they too can live without it for 100 years.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s government seems lonely and isolated, and it is aware that its people are not satisfied with its actions, including its interference in other countries’ affairs. The Qatari people are certainly not happy to see the doors of four countries, which they consider to be the most important for them, closed to them. But the peoples of the four countries do not care much about removing Qatar from their tourist maps, for it is not a common destination and there are many alternatives.

What about Qatar’s threat of rapprochement with Iran? The good relationship between Doha and Tehran existed even before the boycott, and has long represented a problem that frustrated coordination within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

If Qatar today wants to expand trade and civil and military cooperation with Iran, it will collide with the US, which is threatening harsh sanctions against countries that deal with Iran, especially in vital areas related to American companies and interests.

Most of what has been written to glorify Qatar’s steadfastness is either mere propaganda, or incomplete analysis that does not understand the nature of the long dispute with Doha. The goal is simply to isolate Qatar and its policies, and to stop dealing with it.

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