‘Saudi-led demands aimed at emptying Qatar hands off all aces’

‘Saudi-led demands aimed at emptying Qatar hands off all aces’
The Saudis are attempting to use Qatar as an example to show other regional players the astronomical cost of standing against Riyadh, but they no longer have the power to impose their will on Doha, says political commentator Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm.

The four Arab states that imposed boycotts on Qatar have given Doha 10 days to comply with a list of 13 demands. Among other things, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt reportedly want Qatar to shut down its Al Jazeera news network, reduce cooperation with Iran, and close down a Turkish military base. 

Qatar has lashed out at the demands, the fulfillment of which was presented as a precondition for the resumption of diplomatic ties. Doha slammed the ultimatum as an attempt to limit its sovereignty and foreign policy, calling it neither “reasonable” nor “realistic.”

Political commentator Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm doesn’t believe Qatar will comply with the demands, as the Saudis no longer have power to impose their will on Doha.

“At the beginning of the conflict, they tried to intimidate Doha with military force, with chances of a coup. But we all knew that these two options were off the table. The main issue was laying an economic siege on Qatar to bring it to its knees and to incite dissent inside Qatar to provoke the Qataris to stand against their government. But they failed. And the longer this crisis goes, the fewer the chances would be for the Saudis to gain what they want,” he told RT.

The analyst says Qatar and Saudi Arabia have long been regional rivals.

The Saudis always claim to be the leader of the Arab world, while Qatar believes that it’s a heavyweight and its benefits and interest should also be taken in consideration,” he said.

According to Khoshcheshm, the Saudis intended to sort out “the problem of Qatar” at the US-led Islamic summit in Riyadh last month.

“They asked all countries to ally with them against Iran; Qatar knew the cost and avoided it,” he said.

The Saudis then decided to use Qatar as an example for others, Khoshcheshm said.

“They started to bring up a new equation to make Doha understand that the equation is – if you accompany us, you will sustain some losses because of strained ties with Iran and increasing the risk ratio for investment in projects in Qatar. But if you stand against us or stay away from our plan, then the costs would be astronomical and incomparable to what you have to pay if you obey us,” he explained.

The point of putting forward that list of demands, the analyst says, is “to empty the hands of Qatar from the merits and winning aces that it had, or that made it a heavyweight.”

According to Khoshcheshm, those include Qatar’s ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, strong ties with Hamas “that gave them a say on the Israeli-Palestinian” issue, and also its relations with Iran.

As to why Al Jazeera’s closure was included in the demands, the analyst said it is because Riyadh knows the network is “powerful in promoting Qatar’s views.”

The question is – will Arab states demand that the US close its Qatar base?

RT asked Osman Faruk Logoglu, former Turkish ambassador to the US, whether the Gulf nations will also put pressure on Turkey over the situation with Qatar.

It’s a big list of demands. I would rather refer to it as an ultimatum with the timeline attached to it. So, what US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said – that these demands should be “reasonable and actionable” – they are neither reasonable nor actionable,” he said.

In Logoglu’s opinion, the crisis “may get even worse.”

“As far as the Turkish element is concerned, the demand from Qatar to close down Turkish bases and military cooperation with Turkey – the minister of National Defense of Turkey said that this is not on the agenda, this is for the protection of the region, and nobody should make a problem of Turkish presence there,” he said. 

“When I was serving as a member of parliament from the main opposition party, we didn’t feel comfortable with this military agreement with Qatar. Turkey has signed dozens of military cooperation agreements with different countries. What was different with the one concerning Qatar was the actual basing of Turkish military equipment and personnel on the territory of Qatar. Of course, this latest crisis has turned the Turkish military base in Qatar into part of the problem. I think it will need a lot of imaginative work by all the parties concerned, but especially by Turkey, to resolve this question,” he said.

“We have to be fair. We did question the need, the validity, and motivation behind these arrangements with Qatar, but Saudi Arabia and the three other countries that demanded the closure [of the Turkish base] – are they prepared to demand that closure of US airbase in Qatar, as well? This is a crisis that needs careful maneuvering by all sides,” the former ambassador added.        

According to the diplomat, some of the demands may be reasonable as far as relations between the Arab nations and Qatar are concerned.

“But for there to be fairness and transparency, I think they have to put on the table what they are expecting Qatar to do,” he said.

Nonetheless, Logoglu thinks the nations involved in the dispute will manage to resolve it.

“Qatar has experienced similar problems before, back in 2014. They were able to resolve those differences. I have a feeling that, despite the intensity and harsh and loud talk by the different parties over this crisis, that a solution will be found by the Arab states to this crisis,” he told RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.