Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Recently, Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani has been in Washington, D.C. visiting with US officials in the Trump administration regarding the blockade of Qatar. He started his 10-day visit with a speech at the Center for National Interest, a D.C.-area think tank.

Al-Thani warned the audience of “dark ages” ahead for the Middle East and blamed the regional powers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. “Regional players are acting irresponsibly, taking a political gamble with the lives of other nations’ citizens with no exit strategy.”

Earlier this summer, these countries cut diplomatic and trade ties to Qatar after accusing them of having ties to radical terror groups as well as its close relationship to Iran, the arch-nemesis of Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s government has categorically denied these allegations with the director of government communications stating, “Qatar does not fund terrorism whatsoever — no groups, no individuals. Not from afar or from a close distance,” during an interview with the Los Angeles Times in late August.

Six months into the crisis, the al-Thani government is desperate to enlist the help of the international community and Foreign Minister Sheikh al-Thani is hoping to garner the support of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He is slated to speak with him and members of Congress later this week regarding the crisis.

In his speech, al-Thani continued, “[t]he world watches the news and sees images from my region which are full of drama and discord, dark periods of closed-mindedness, totalitarianism and aggression [have] set in. The Middle East went from the center of connectivity and enlightenment to being a chaotic region. During the age of aggression, extremism has flourished.”

The list of demands pushed forward by the UAE and Saudi Arabia are listed below:

  • Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.
  • Sever all ties to “terrorist organizations,” specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  • Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  • Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly.
  • Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
  • Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and others.
  • Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin.
  • End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  • Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  • Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  • Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
  • Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  • Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

Qatar has refused to submit to these demands and many in the international community have called for a negotiated resolution but little progress has been seen as the crisis has only deepened. Though Saudi Arabia and the UAE have expressly stated they will not use force to bring about a resolution to the crisis, they have begun to mobilize a different branch of the al-Thani family to take over control of Qatar.

During his U.S. visit, Foreign Minister al-Thani has responded to these reports by saying, “We have enough friends in order to stop them from taking these steps.” He has touted his country’s preparedness for rebuffing any use of force by the blockading nations but said, “there is a pattern of unpredictability in their behavior, so we have to keep all the options on the table for us.”


Sources:  LA Times, Al-Jazeera, CNN, The Guardian

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.