Qatar crisis will persist for years — analysts

No end in sight for row as long as Shaikh Hamad rules Doha behind the scenes, experts say

Abu Dhabi: Almost a year on, experts see no end in sight for the Qatar crisis.

“The Qatar crisis is a zero-sum game, and as long as Shaikh Hamad rules Qatar from behind the scenes, Doha’s obistancy will continue and there will be no solution in sight to the row,” Dr Ebtisam Al Ketbi, President of the Emirates Policy Centre said yesterday.

Dr Al Ketbi told a symposium on the ‘Crisis in Qatar: A Year of Obstinacy’, almost one year since the eruption of the Qatari crisis, it has become more evident that Doha’s policies do not serve the interests of GCC nations. “Moreover, we have become more convinced than ever that Qatar has established its regional role, interests and foreign policies in a manner contrary to those of GCC nations. Definitely, that conviction was behind the decision made by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain to boycott Qatar with the aim of sending a message to Qatar that its policy of supporting terrorism and extremism in the region, including against GCC countries, and opposing their interests, must come to an end,” Dr Al Ketbi said.

On June 5 last year, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed their airspace and ports to Qatar-registered planes and ships over accusations it was supporting terrorist and extremist groups.

The row has led to a regional polarisation between Qatar, Iran and Turkey on the one side, and the Arab Quartet and other countries on the other.

Dr Abdul Aziz Al Khamis, a leading Saudi analyst, estimated that there are four scenarios for resolving the ongoing diplomatic conflict between Qatar and the Arab Quartet. These, he said, include war, which has been completely abandoned by the Quartet. The second scenario of political settlement through mediation has also failed due to Qatari obstinacy. The third — the crisis persisting for a long time — is the favourite scenario of many international think tanks. The final one is that of a regional threat to the Gulf region, such as a military confrontation between the US and Iran, as a result of which the GCC could close ranks again.

Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a leading Emirati political analyst, ruled out the possibility that the boycott will lead to a change in the ruling regime in Doha.

“The crisis will continue for years to come because of Qatar’s obstinacy and its willingness and readiness to pay the price for it. Doha is ready to pay $5 to $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) annually for 500 years for keeping the 5,000 Turkish troops deployed in Qatar, it is ready to pay $2 billion annually for the media platforms including Al Jazeera and it is ready to pay $500 million annually for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood,” Dr Abdullah said.

He stressed that the boycott had led to the decline of Qatar’s regional role and soft power at a time when the Qatar-backed media platforms have become a primary source of fake news and misinformation.

Dr Mohammad Bin Huwaiden, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at UAE University, said Qatar will not heed the voices of reason despite the heavy price it is paying for the boycott.

Economic impact of boycott

Dr Hamad Al Tuwaijri, an associate professor of economics at the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, said Qatar has faced huge economic and financial losses following the boycott by the Arab Quartet. “The boycott of Qatar led to 60 per cent decrease in the its economic growth last year compared to 2016. The outflows from the Qatari banks and the drop in financial revenues prompted Doha to look for various funding sources.”

Moreover, international agencies reported a fall in Qatar’s foreign exchange reserves. The IMF pointed out two months ago that Qatari banks have lost nearly $40 billion in foreign finance since the boycott.

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