Washington Post: Rift deepens between Qatar and its powerful Arab neighbors

By , Published: March 9 

CAIRO — A series of bold diplomatic actions across a turbulent Middle East last week exposed a deepening rift between the tiny Persian Gulf monarchy of Qatar and its powerful Arab neighbors in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Continue reading Washington Post: Rift deepens between Qatar and its powerful Arab neighbors

Esglobal: El ascenso de Qatar

Articulo (traduccion) que escrive para Esglobal

Cuando el jeque Hamad de Qatar anunció el año pasado que iba a abdicar en favor de su hijo Tamim, muchos confiaron en que el emirato hubiera comprendido que su intervencionismo imperioso era un error y retirase su apoyo a los movimientos islamistas de la región, incluidos los Hermanos Musulmanes de Egipto. Sin embargo, ha pasado casi un año y no se observa ningún cambio. Tamim continúa aplicando la misma política exterior que su padre, una estrategia que pretende ejercer en todo el mundo árabe una influencia independiente de Arabia Saudí y utilizar una red de grupos islamistas en cuyo centro están los Hermanos egipcios…. Continue reading Esglobal: El ascenso de Qatar

ECFR: Gulf rift: uneasy dynasties in a changing world

This week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, citing Qatar’s apparent failure to heed the terms of a security agreement made at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting late last year. The two issues in the dispute are Qatar’s perceived backing for the Egyptian Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the coverage on Qatari pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera, which has been favourable to the Brotherhood and its challenge to the Egyptian authorities after the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last year. Continue reading ECFR: Gulf rift: uneasy dynasties in a changing world

FT: Diplomatic crisis as Gulf states withdraw ambassadors from Qatar

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors from neighbouring Qatar, as frustration over the gas-rich emirate’s maverick foreign policy prompts the worst intra-Gulf diplomatic crisis in recent history.

The three nations, which are seeking to marginalise their neighbour’s support for political Islam in the region, cited Qatar’s unwillingness to adhere to agreements of the 32-year-old six-member Gulf Co-operation Council as the reason for recalling their envoys, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama also asked Doha, which has been a big backer of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, not to “support any party aiming to threaten security and stability of any GCC member”.

They accused Qatar of failing to agree on a unified policy to “ensure non-interference, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any member state” after it failed to sign up to a common security pact at a GCC foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Qatar’s cabinet in a statement said that the ambassadors’ withdrawal had been driven by “a difference in positions on issues out of the GCC,” reiterating its commitment to the six-member group, adding that it would not reciprocate and withdraw its ambassadors.

The diplomatic crisis, a rare escalation of behind-the-scenes negotiation into a damaging public spat, poses the most severe challenge of the short reign of the young Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The sheikh met the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in November, promising a new face to Qatar’s foreign policy.

“The new emir promised things would change, and he failed to deliver,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a UAE-based political scientist, referring to a meeting held between Sheikh Tamim and the Saudi and Kuwaiti rulers last November.

“There is a desire to sanction Qatar politically and diplomatically.”

Gulf states had believed the new emir would promote a more consensual approach to foreign policy, co-ordinating more closely with his GCC neighbours, rather than striking out on major policy initiatives alone.

”Qatar has been warned a number of times by GCC countries that its policies, particularly with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, ran counter to the critical security interests of the region,” said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar. “As a result the GCC nations have taken an unprecedented step to haul Qatar back into line, and further escalatory steps could be taken in future.”

Last month, the UAE rebuked the Qatari ambassador in Abu Dhabi after Sheikh Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who is based in Qatar, attacked the UAE for not supporting Islamic government.

The UAE’s crackdown on domestic Islamists has over the past couple of years prompted several disagreements, many of them on social media, between emiratis and Sheikh Qaradawi and his supporters.

Abu Dhabi this week convicted a Qatari national, dubbed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, for aiding a banned UAE Islamist group that the authorities claim is linked to the brotherhood.

So far Qatar has not bowed to initial pressure from Abu Dhabi over Sheikh Qaradawi’s comments, says Andrew Hammond, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Qatar does not want to allow Saudi and the UAE to dictate policy,” says Mr Hammond. “Qatar is convinced it is standing up for just causes, such as Egypt, as well as its interventions in Libya and Syria.”

The ousting of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first elected president who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has become the biggest flashpoint in GCC-Qatar relations.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have generously supported the military-backed interim regime led by Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Qatar, a financial supporter of Mr Morsi’s government, has criticised the manner in which the president was deposed.

The three Gulf states have also been pushing Doha to rein in its popular pan-Arab satellite channel, Al Jazeera, which they accuse of promoting an Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood agenda. Three Al Jazeera journalists are facing trial in Cairo on charges of belonging to the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood.

The channel’s reporting sparked another bilateral spat with Saudi Arabia, which recalled its ambassador from Doha between 2002 and 2007.

Oman, which does not tend to co-ordinate closely with the other Gulf monarchies, and Kuwait did not withdraw their ambassadors.

Labour rights in Qatar – Last thing on their minds

(First published on ECFR website)

Qatar is facing a barrage of criticism now over its treatment of Asian workers hired to build infrastructure for its staging of World Cup 2002. The Guardian revealed in September that dozens of Nepalis had died in recent months, working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week in scorching temperatures and stifling humidity in the heart of a Gulf summer. Francois Crepeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said in Doha this month that Qatar should ditch the sponsorship system for hiring foreigners as the source of the abuse they suffer – sponsorship means that employees cannot change jobs or even leave the country without the permission of their sponsors, something that favoured Western nationals in white-collar work usually manage to avoid. And this week Amnesty International released a report, “The dark side of migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup”, that described workers as treated like animals, and even referred to construction of Fifa’s own headquarters in Doha. Continue reading Labour rights in Qatar – Last thing on their minds

Qatar: For My Next Trick…

Qatar coup stories are of course dime-a-dozen. Doha has many potential enemies, from Iran and pro-Assad groups, to anti-Muslim Brotherhood regimes like Saudi Arabia who are with Qatar in the anti-Assad camp. The latest in the rumour mill is a bit more intriguing – that the Emir could be preparing to transfer much if not most of his powers to the heir apparent Prince Tameem. Continue reading Qatar: For My Next Trick…

The UK in Syria – and Qatar in the UK

Britain has become notably more gung-ho about Syria in recent months. The government, and parliament, are split over arming the anti-Assad rebels, but the prime minister David Cameron, his foreign minister William Hague and others are pushing for arming the anti-Assad forces, while placing hope on the proposed Geneva conference for some kind of negotiated resolution of the conflict. Britain played a key role along with France in the EU’s recent decision to allow member states to arm the rebels, though the UK government is saying it won’t take any definitive action until Geneva has taken place. But a clear shift in the UK position has taken place in recent months. Continue reading The UK in Syria – and Qatar in the UK

Arab awakening: Qatar’s controversial alliance with Arab Islamists

From Open Democracy:

Secular activists and politicians in Egypt and officials in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – each for their own reasons – have watched with alarm as the Gulf state, Qatar, and its pan-Arab media arm Al Jazeera have promoted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and allied Islamist groups such as Ennahda in Tunisia. Continue reading Arab awakening: Qatar’s controversial alliance with Arab Islamists