President of the Emirates Policy Center, Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, said that the US approach in its dealings with Qatar has changed under the administration of president Donald Trump; a fact Qatar has not yet fully grasped. She added that during the Obama administration, Qatar took on roles that served the interests of the US in the Arab region, and in return the Qatari regime was achieving its goal of regional expansion.
Al Ketbi pointed out that the “deep state” institutions in the US, including the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon, benefited from Qatar undertaking tasks these institutions did not want attributed to them. She listed communicating with Iran through back channels, contacting extremist and terrorist groups and political Islamist movements, and supporting the rise of the Muslim brotherhood to power during the “Arab Spring”, as examples of such tasks.
“There are those in the US who want Qatar to continue playing this role; while some believe Qatar’s actions went beyond the scope of said role, creating dangerous issues related to communicating with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and hosting terrorist organizations in Doha,” Dr. Ebtesam added.
EPC President compared between Trump and Obama’s approaches, highlighting the differences between the two administrations in dealing with terrorist groups and regional powers such as Iran. She found that Doha did not comprehend that change: “Qatar thought its relationship with the deep state in the US will allow it to continue down its current path away from the GCC countries. Meanwhile, what we see today, is that Trump imposes his opinions, be it with regards to Iran or Qatar.”
Dr. Ebtesam believes that the pressure Washington can exert on Doha will be a key factor in resolving the current diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the four boycotting countries - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt.
She cited the formation of an oversight committee, which includes officials from the CIA, FBI, and the Treasury department, to monitor whether Doha’s actions are in line with what’s required of it in terms of countering terrorism, as an example, and added: “the US also demanded Qatar stay as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and limit its relationship with Iran.”
Dr. Ebtesam found the call between the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, last September, to be an example of the US pressuring Qatar to initiate a “conciliatory step”; however, “Qatari media’s distortion of the truth led to the failure of that action,” she said.
EPC President stressed that the dispute between the boycotting countries and Qatar revolves around the latter’s policies, which she described as "unilateral and contradictory to the policies of the Gulf Cooperation Council."
She denied Qatar's claims that the crisis is related to its sovereignty and independence, noting in this regard that the GCC has, since its inception, respected the regional and international policies of some of its countries, such as Kuwait prior to the Iraqi invasion, and Oman.
“Qatar overstepped diplomatic norms and political traditions and violated the GCC charter by interfering in the internal affairs of GCC countries and targeting their security and social fabric, through alliances with dominant regional powers or with internal parties seeking to destabilize these countries, or with groups internationally classified as terrorist organizations. It has done so by providing sanctuary to the leaders of such organizations in Qatar or by funding them or by adopting hate speech, through nationally funded media outlets,” Dr. Ebtesam said.
She stressed that Qatar has fallen victim to its illusions and inaccurate perceptions of its capabilities, and that there is no solution to the crisis in the Gulf without Qatar modifying its policies which are detrimental to the security and stability of the countries of the region, in addition to changing its perception of its regional role.
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