Confused by the Qatar crisis? Here's the latest info...
Here’s what we’ve found out in the past few weeks about how this all started many years ago, what it’s really about, and how long it will go on for…
We kept you updated day-by-day as the Qatar situation first unfolded (read about everything that happened in the first week here), and, remarkably, it’s still ongoing.
The sanctions against the Gulf state were imposed on June 5, and nearly a month-and-a-half later the situation remains unresolved. So what has happened in the past month? Here’s a bullet point guide to what has been reported across the UAE…
(There’s a lot here, but it’s worth wading through).
“We are ready for this process to take a very long time,” said Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday. “This is a crisis that will drag on.”
“We will not again agree to sweep these problems under the carpet. Much is at stake here that affects the narrative of our religion… Qatar is one of the premier state supporters of the Jihadi interpretation of our religion. If we succeed in changing their behaviour it will make all of our futures safer,” he said.
“We are not there to escalate, we are not after a regime change,” he added.
You can hear his full speech here:
– In late June, the UAE-KSA alliance gave Qatar a list of demands that would end the blockade, giving the country 10 days to meet them. Qatar then leaked these demands. These included closing Al Jazeera, cutting ties to extremist organisations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and ISIS, and stopping the development of a Turkish military base in Qatar. It is said that they also want an international monitoring system to monitor Qatari money.
Qatar refused to meet the demands, and so now we are in a stalemate. The demand list has now been taken from 13 demands to 6 demands.
– Anwar Gargash has said that reports of letters going to FIFA about the World Cup from the UAE are not true, he added that they expect “48 hour rumours” to pop up throughout the crisis, as that’s the nature of unfolding situations.
– Gargash has said that the blockade is a result of many years of issues, but when asked “why now?” he stated two key things: one was the fact that Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim was given a chance in 2014 to wipe the slate clean from his father’s actions and policies, but that he hasn’t (you can read more about the significance of 2014 below).
– He also said Qatar’s ransom deal to release members of the royal family who were kidnapped by a Shia militia while hunting was the final straw – the Financial Times reported that in April Qatar paid a total of USD1 billion (yes, billion) to an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria as well as Iranian security officials to release the 24 Qataris who were held as hostages for 16 months.
– Yesterday, Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs denied claims by The Washington Post that the UAE was behind an alleged hack on Qatar’s state news agency website earlier this year.
Speaking in London on Monday he said: “The Washington Post story is not true. It is purely wrong. You will see in the next few days the story will die.” He also said it’s not true that the ‘hack’ led to the crisis: “this issue has been festering since 2014”.
– What was the hack? Well, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was quoted in May as praising Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and calling Iran an “Islamic power”. Qatar officials later claimed he’d never said these things, and the news site had been hacked.
– “The Washington Post story is false,” the UAE ambassador to the US Youssef Al Otaiba said on Twitter about this weekend’s allegations. “The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article. What is true is Qatar’s behaviour. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas & Qadafi.”
– While The Washington Post claims the UAE was involved in the hack, the Guardian reported earlier this month that the FBI had concluded that Russian hackers were behind the leak.
EVERYONE HAS MADE MISTAKES
– Last week, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that he welcomes Qatar’s recent signing of an anti-terrorism agreement with the United States, but said the UAE will need to see more than that.
– He also admitted that all of the countries involved have made mistakes in who they support, but their intentions now are what counts: “We realise that there have been mistakes in the past from all of us – even the United States committed these mistakes – even Europe committed these mistakes – when we decided one day to support the so-called Mujahideen in Afghanistan and then the matter was not resolved and Afghanistan suffered a civil war. The same thing happened in Somalia and Iraq, and today we see it happening in Syria and Libya, and I think if we start to blame, and blame certain issues, it will not be ended.
“The difference between our countries and Qatar is this: our countries are working with care and attention to confront and deter terrorism and extremism. It is true that our systems may not be the best possible situation, but the development of our systems, laws and structures significantly helps in countering these issues. However, the Qatari state is funding extremism, terrorism and fueling hatred, which provides these terrorists with shelter and a platform… What we are asking today from Qatar is what we ask of ourselves. We will not ask Qatar to take any action or steps we do not ask of, or commit to, ourselves as nations.
– Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, has said that the blockade is not about Iran specifically: “This is instead, first and foremost, about the support Qatar offered to the cause of jihadism across the Middle East, and for specific individuals and organisations, including some linked to Al Qaeda,” he said.
– “Diplomacy remains our only path,” he added in a speech given on Monday July 17. “We said, early on, that we would not escalate beyond what we consider sovereign measures granted to us by international law.”
– UAE officials have said that some of Qatar’s charity work has been used to fund terrorism, which explains why the legalities around supporting non-registered charities in the UAE are so strong. You can read about those here.
– Egypt has announced that it’s revoking visa-free entry for Qatari citizens in a show of support for Saudi and the UAE. Most Qataris will now have to apply for a visa to visit the North African country, however Qatari nationals with Egyptian mothers, those married to Egyptians, and Qataris studying in Egypt will be exempt from having to apply for a visa. This will take effect on Thursday July 20.
WHAT ABOUT AL JAZEERA?
– One of the demands put on Qatar by the UAE and KSA to end the blockade is the closure of TV news channel Al Jazeera. This has made people discuss the repercussions around freedom of speech. The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs wrote an open letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to explain the move…
“While the protection of the right of freedom of expression is of fundamental importance, this protection is not absolute, and restrictions on the right are permitted under the international law to protect national security and public order,” said Dr. Gargash.
“Freedom of expression cannot be used to justify and shield the promotion of extremist narratives,” the letter notes, before pointing out UN Security Council Resolution 1624 (2005), a historic resolution that focused on messages that often precede acts of terrorism and calls on States to prohibit and prevent incitement to commit terrorist acts.
– How has Al Jazeera incited terrorism? Gargash gives many examples in the letter, including, how on February 18 2008, following the re-publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast a speech by the spokesman of the Salah al-Din brigades in Gaza that called on Muslims to “burn down the offices of the newspapers that affronted our Prophet”. He also cites how the mother and sister of one of the perpetrators of the London Bridge attack, Youssef Zaghba, told the Times that her son was radicalised by watching Al-Jazeera. He brings up many other examples, including a time when Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast sermons by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, that actively called for anti-Semetic violence.
THE RIYADH AGREEMENT HELPS TO EXPLAIN THE CRISIS
As outsiders looking in, the blockade against Qatar on June 5 seemed sudden, but last week CNN obtained documents signed in 2013 and 2014 that show it’s far from it.
The news channel showed that the GCC made explicit (and initially secret) agreements in 2013 and 2014 banning support for hostile groups in the GCC and in Egypt and Yemen. These agreements were kept secret until last week. The UAE and Saudi have accused Qatar of now not complying with these agreements, which were signed by all GCC countries three and four years ago. This shows how this diplomatic crisis goes much farther back than many of us realised.
– The signed, handwritten agreement referred to as the Riyadh Agreement, bars financial or political support of “deviant groups”, and it specifically mentions not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The agreement does not single out Qatar – the conditions are applicable to all of the countries that signed it.
– Remember, in March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar over an issue with the upholding of the agreement.
– In fact, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Dr Anwar Gargash, said in a speech in London this week that the UAE has had concerns about Qatar’s links with terrorism since the early 1990s.
– On Wednesday July 12 the Ministers for Foreign Affairs from KSA, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Kuwait all met with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in part to discuss the Qatar situation.
A group called the Global Campaign Against the Qatari Financing of Terrorism has started campaigning and handing out fliers outside of major European embassies, they’ve said they want the countries they’re campaigning in to realise how Qatari money has, in their view, funded hatred on each of these nation’s home turf. They’ve said they will seek recompense for victims of, in their view, Qatari-funded terrorism, and they’ve released a statement explaining why they’re doing this:
“The campaign seeks to counter hateful and extremist rhetoric, which Qatar has promoted through its media outlets against the culture of pluralism and tolerance between ethnic and religious sects, in defiant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN conventions and treaties… The campaign will prepare illustrated document material that will reveal the real and painful stories of victims and groups that were subjected to suffering and violence from Doha-funded terrorist organisations… One of the most important objectives of the campaign is to spread the culture of diversity, pluralism, tolerance and peace against the extremism which has spread in recent years primarily due to Qatari funding,” the statement concluded.
They have said that they will submit a dossier to UNESCO soon that they say shows how Qatar’s funding of terror groups affected and closed down schools in Syria, stopping education for many Syrian children.
We’ll keep you updated as anything else major is reported…