Why is Qatar stirring trouble?


I ASKED my followers on Twitter: Why is Qatar playing the troublemaker in our region? Most respondents thought it was a psychological issue. I agree. Qatari leaders are too much aware of their small size. The total number of Qataris is around 300,000, including thousand of nationalized foreigners. They live in a tiny desert Peninsula of 11,581 km2 (4,471 sq mi). Still, the city-state has the world’s third-largest natural-gas reserves. With so much riches, but so limited capacity, one might vie for a higher positioning in regional and world politics.

We have witnessed similar cases. Former president of Uganda, Idi Amin, managed to occupy headlines for many years with his childish, but dangerous behavior. Other reckless personalities include Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire, Muammar Qaddafi, Libya, Hugo Chávez, Venezuela, Fidel Castro, Cuba, and Kim Jong-un, North Korea.

All of those “wannabe” leaders felt trapped in their own size. In the past, it was possible to overcome limitations and expand beyond one’s border, like Alexander the Great did. After the World War II, the world decided to end the trend. The United Nations was founded on the premise that there will be no more empire building. Those who ventured beyond internationally recognized borders, like Saddam Hussein did by invading and occupying a UN member state, Kuwait, were severely punished.

However, the New World Order doesn’t prevent hegemony by using soft power in economic, cultural and technological fields. America in post-WWII, managed to expand its global influence, by holding unrivaled control over information, entertainment, media and communication networks, as well as its scientific, military and industrial capabilities. Such superiority helped in building strong alliances, and deploying military forces, bases and fleets, in addition to having strong presence in international organizations and events. It also helped in spreading popular culture, marketing US products and winning hearts and minds.

On the other hand, countries with less potential and great ambitions, such as Russia, Iran, Turkey, and (to less extent) North Korea and Qatar, has been trying to maximize the effect of their tools of power and influence.

Qatar is aware of its limited geographic, demographic and political potential. Therefore, it has become too dependent on alliances. To overcome the conflicts and contradictions among its allies, it learned to play the odds and dance over the heads of beasts.

It is a tough game to befriend Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Iran as well as the US, Gulf states and Israel. And since Qatar doesn’t have experienced leaders, well-trained operatives and other human resources, it had to utilize the experience, prestige and networks of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the Islamists’ nemeses — the Arab nationalists, leftists and liberals — all at once.

When the so-called Arab Spring erupted, Qatar and its allies were there first to lead the masses. They made the most use of Al-Jazeera network, Qatari riyals, the Brothers’ organization skills, and Turkey’s political might to jump on the driver seat and lead these nations. The Obama administration supported the scheme on the promise that the new Arab world would be more democratic, religiously tolerant, and friendly with Iran and Israel.

At a certain time, the schemers seemed to have won. Brotherhood parties and affiliates had managed to lead Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and, most importantly, mighty Egypt. They figured strongly in the parliaments of Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria. Turkey and Qatar seemed on the verge of declaring a new Sunni Caliphate — if it wasn’t for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Obama’s strong protests and drawn redlines.

The domino effect was reversed by brining down the Brotherhood rule in Egypt. The rest was easy. Then the game-changer President Donald Trump came along with his new agenda of supporting US traditional allies against Iran and jihadists. Qatar had to choose between living in their fantasy and facing reality. Unfortunately, they chose wrong!

The great dream has ended and the dreamers still haven’t woken up. Qatar and company still maneuver, scheme, stall and hope against all odds that sometime, somehow, the winds would go their way. Now that the Arab Alliance is thwarting every attempt to end the boycott against them, there isn’t much time left to give up the evil project and cut off with the evil company. The more they wait, the less their chances of reconciliation. The clock is ticking ... is anyone listening in Doha?

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi