At the beginning of the month, Saudi Arabia and a coalition composed of Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Yemen, broke diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed what amounts to a blockade of that nation. The reason is Qatar’s enthusiastic support for terrorism. Qatar funds pro-terror propaganda outlets like al-Jazeera, it funds the Muslim Brotherhood, it allows ISIS and al-Qaeda and the IRGC to raise funds via Qatar organizations.
On Friday, someone leaked AP the list of demands the Saudi coalition is making on Qatar:
— Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar 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, the Islamic State group, 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, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
— Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.
— Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the United States and other countries.
— Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
— 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.
— 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. The document doesn’t specify what the countries will do if Qatar refuses to comply.
— 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.
This is pretty serious stuff. If you are student of history, a lot of this is reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum issued to the Kingdom of Serbia on July 22, 1914. In fact, there is a strange parallelism in the points:
1. to suppress every publication which shall incite to hatred and contempt of the Monarchy, and the general tendency of which shall be directed against the territorial integrity of the latter;
2. to proceed at once to the dissolution of the Narodna Odbrana to confiscate all of its means of propaganda, and in the same manner to proceed against the other unions and associations in Serbia which occupy themselves with propaganda against Austria-Hungary; the Royal Government will take such measures as are necessary to make sure that the dissolved associations may not continue their activities under other names or in other forms;
3. to eliminate without delay from public instruction in Serbia, everything, whether connected with the teaching corps or with the methods of teaching, that serves or may serve to nourish the propaganda against Austria-Hungary;
4. to remove from the military and administrative service in general all officers and officials who have been guilty of carrying on the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, whose names the Imperial and Royal Government reserves the right to make known to the Royal Government when communicating the material evidence now in its possession;
5. to agree to the cooperation in Serbia of the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government in the suppression of the subversive movement directed against the integrity of the Monarchy;
6. to institute a judicial inquiry against every participant in the conspiracy of the twenty-eighth of June who may be found in Serbian territory; the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government delegated for this purpose will take part in the proceedings held for this purpose;
7. to undertake with all haste the arrest of Major Voislav Tankosic and of one Milan Ciganovitch, a Serbian official, who have been compromised by the results of the inquiry;
8. by efficient measures to prevent the participation of Serbian authorities in the smuggling of weapons and explosives across the frontier; to dismiss from the service and to punish severely those members of the Frontier Service at Schabats and Losnitza who assisted the authors of the crime of Sarajevo to cross the frontier;
9. to make explanations to the Imperial and Royal Government concerning the unjustifiable utterances of high Serbian functionaries in Serbia and abroad, who, without regard for their official position, have not hesitated to express themselves in a manner hostile toward Austria-Hungary since the assassination of the twenty-eighth of June;
10. to inform the Imperial and Royal Government without delay of the execution of the measures comprised in the foregoing points.
Right now, the United States is playing both sides of the fence. On the one hand, it is encouraging the Saudi coalition, and on the other it is continuing to act as though nothing has happened. We just signed a deal to repair/replace jet engines in Qatar Air Force F-16s, the US Navy conducted a training exercise with Qatar, there have been no restrictions on the massive CENTCOM operation at Al Udeid Air Base. (This base, btw, was one of most impressively stupid ideas anyone in the US military has come up with since, perhaps, the frontal assault on Marye’s Heights on December 13, 1862.)
What next? An ultimatum isn’t very impressive unless it carries consequences. The coalition is saying they are not trying to change Qatar’s government, they are just trying to change its behavior:
A top United Arab Emirates official said Saturday the Arab countries isolating Qatar do not seek to force out the country’s leadership over allegations it supports extremist ideology but are willing to cut ties altogether if it does not agree to their demands.
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai that his country and its allies do not want “regime change” in Qatar, but a “behavioral change.”
He described the six-member, Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council that includes his country and Qatar as being in a state of crisis as a result of the standoff, and he referred to Qatar as a “Trojan horse” within the once close-knit group of Arab monarchies that would be isolated for the long term if it does not capitulate.
“The alternative is not escalation. The alternative is parting of ways,” he said. “It’s very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping with one of the partners … actively promoting what is an extremist and terrorist agenda.”
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain presented a 13-point list of demands to Qatar on Thursday and gave it 10 days to take action. They have signaled that if Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, they will continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely amid mounting economic pressure on the Persian Gulf nation.
Qatar has a different view:
“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning — the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combatting terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” Sheikh Saif Al-Thani, a Qatari ruling family member who heads the country’s government communications office, said in a statement earlier Saturday.
What has escaped the attention of this fellow is that Qatar’s foreign policy IS terrorism, but, even so, he is exactly right about the implications of the Saudi demands.