Skip to main content

Home/ International Politics of the Middle East/ Group items tagged Qatar

Rss Feed Group items tagged

Ed Webb

The Qatar Blockade Is Over, but the Gulf Crisis Lives On - 0 views

  • Officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar sought to end their rancorous three-and-a-half-year dispute over Qatar’s drift toward Iran and restore much-needed cohesion to the GCC, which also includes Kuwait and Oman. The GCC summit was a resounding success. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt lifted their blockade on Qatar and restored diplomatic relations with the country. Qatar also suspended its World Trade Organization case against the UAE’s economic isolation efforts.
  • the Gulf crisis is far from over. The reconciliation at the GCC summit was triggered by fatigue from the blockade and by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to rebrand his tarnished image with the new U.S. administration
  • focus on symbolism over substance at the GCC summit bodes poorly for the organization’s long-term cohesion
  • ...12 more annotations...
  • Mistrust between Qatar and the blockading states, an ongoing rivalry between the UAE and Qatar, sharp divergences in policy toward Iran and Turkey, and geostrategic contestation in Africa could reheat the Gulf crisis in the near future
  • the recent blockade’s impacts were felt at both the elite and popular level. Hardships, such as the separation of mixed-citizenship Saudi-Qatari couples, created lasting societal rifts. Saudi and Emirati state-aligned media outlets relentlessly promoted the narrative that Qatar was a state sponsor of terrorism, while Qatari media outlets equated the UAE’s religious tolerance policies with support for idolatry. In turn, Saudi, Emirati, and Qatari publics have increasingly come to view each other as adversaries rather than as neighbors or friends
  • The ongoing rivalry between the UAE and Qatar could derail any normalization in the Gulf. Since the 2011 Arab Spring protests, the UAE and Qatar have advanced competing visions for the region’s future. The UAE has condemned Islamist civil society movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and, with few exceptions, has supported the forces of counterrevolution against those of political pluralism. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain align with the UAE. Qatar enthusiastically supported the post-Arab Spring Muslim Brotherhood governments in Tunisia and Egypt and continues to encourage popular unrest in the Middle East. Turkey is the principal backer of Qatar’s vision
  • The GCC remains divided especially on Iran and Turkey, which will impede intra-bloc cooperation on security issues
  • the GCC will remain bifurcated on Iran policy between a pro-engagement bloc consisting of Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait and a pro-isolation coalition comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain
  • Due to Turkey’s operation of a military base in Qatar and Doha’s standing as the second largest foreign investor in the Turkish economy, the Turkey-Qatar strategic partnership will only tighten in the post-crisis period. Qatar’s alignment with Turkey is a source of friction with the UAE.
  • the GCC could respond incoherently to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalations in the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Although countries that balance positive relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, such as Pakistan and Malaysia, benefit from the GCC’s reconciliation, the UAE-Qatar rivalry in Africa remains an unresolved source of friction. The UAE wishes to counter Qatar’s influence in Tunisia, which has grown due to large-scale Qatari investment in the Tunisian economy and Qatar-Tunisia diplomatic cooperation in Libya. Qatar has similarly capitalized on UAE-Algeria frictions, which were triggered by Abu Dhabi’s concerns about strengthening Turkey-Algeria relations and Algeria’s opposition to the UAE’s normalization with Israel.
  • The UAE and Qatar also vie for influence in Somalia. The UAE has close relations with the self-declared state of Somaliland, and Qatar aligns with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government
  • The United States should not view the GCC as a united security bloc. Regional strategies that depend on Gulf unity, such as the Middle East Strategic Alliance, should be shelved. U.S. officials should also carefully vet large-scale arms transfers to GCC countries, such as former President Donald Trump’s $23 billion arms deal with the UAE. These contracts could trigger reciprocal arms buildups that revive the Gulf crisis
  • the new state of cold peace on the Arabian Peninsula can benefit U.S. interests
  • As Qatar has returned to the GCC fold, it could act as a moderating influence on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Biden seeks to revive
Ed Webb

Gulf States' Efforts to Deploy Soft Power of Soccer Runs Through South America, Messi - 0 views

  • Earlier this year, Messi signed a deal with the kingdom to promote tourism there as it reportedly mulls a candidacy to host the 2030 World Cup. The terms and length of the deal were not made public, but The Athletic reported Messi may be receiving as much as $30 million per year. A potential Saudi Arabian bid would pit the country against Argentina’s own proposal to host the tournament together with Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
  • Embracing international sports icons is just one way that Gulf countries have worked in recent years to boost their international influence. Qatar sits on the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves and has found itself in a powerful position in the age of energy supply strains. Since the start of the World Cup just two weeks ago, Qatar has signed a 15-year deal with Germany to supply it with natural gas, and the United States—whose largest military base in the Middle East is already near Doha—greenlit a $1 billion arms sale to the country. Washington considers Qatar a major non-NATO ally critical to stability in the Persian Gulf and beyond.
  • in Latin America, one of the ways Gulf states’ rising profiles have been most evident is their forays into the soft power of soccer. Gulf countries are not among the top trading partners of Latin America’s largest economies, but sports fans know that both Messi and Brazilian star Neymar play for a club team that is owned by a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, Paris Saint-Germain.
  • ...3 more annotations...
  • when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, FIFA successfully pressured the country to change its legislation to permit alcohol sales in stadiums. But Qatar was able to impose its own laws on FIFA, in this case prohibiting alcohol sales to regular fans in the stands (though alcohol is freely available to VIP guests in luxury suites). It was one sign of the varying degrees of power held by recent World Cup host nations
  • Latin American audiences are intimately familiar with the use of the World Cup for political aims, such as when Argentina sought international legitimacy for its bloody dictatorship when it hosted the tournament in 1978. Like the European and U.S. press, the show has discussed the human rights and labor rights complaints surrounding the Qatari-hosted event. Still, Wall told Foreign Policy that, overall, “in South America, perhaps we see [the World Cup] with different eyes.” Latin American coverage of the event has focused more on how soccer culture in both Latin America and the Middle East developed in the context of colonization. It’s been striking to encounter so many Brazil and Argentina fans from the Middle East and Asia at the World Cup, Wall added. “There is something that we see in each other.”
  • It has also prompted some to wonder if Latin American countries could better capitalize on their own soccer power. “The value of Argentine soft power” remains “much more potential than real,” former Argentine foreign ministry official Tomás Kroyer told Forbes Argentina this week. In Brazil, the Workers’ Party governments of 2003 to 2016 designed several policies to use the appeal of Brazilian soccer as a diplomatic tool, even taking the national team to play in Haiti to herald the arrival of Brazilian peacekeepers in 2004, Veiga de Almeida University international relations professor Tanguy Baghdadi told Foreign Policy in an interview.
Ed Webb

How a diplomatic crisis among Gulf nations led to fake news campaign in the United States - 0 views

  • it’s not just Kremlin-produced disinformation that Americans may have stumbled upon recently. Browsing Facebook and Twitter — and even just perusing the magazine rack at their local Walmart — they may have also been exposed to propaganda supporting the ambitious goals of two oil-rich Arab Gulf countries
  • when Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched a boycott and blockade of the tiny peninsula state of Qatar last year, organizations with ties to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi tried something new: They worked to sway American public opinion through online and social media campaigns, bringing a complicated, distant conflict among three Washington allies to US shores
  • As they took steps against Doha, Saudi Arabia and the UAE also initiated propaganda efforts in the US aimed at weakening Washington’s alliance with Qatar — which hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East — while also enhancing their own images.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • The Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a pro-Saudi lobby group not officially tied to the Saudi government, paid $2.6 million last year to the now-defunct, Washington-based lobbying firm the Podesta Group for public affairs services that included running the anti-Qatar website and its associated social media properties
  • Along with painting Qatar as a terror-friendly nation, The Qatar Insider encouraged the US to remove its Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to the forward headquarters of the US Central Command, from Qatar and lobbied against Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup.
  • Last fall, a film billed as an “educational documentary” called “Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance” appeared online and was distributed to guests at an event hosted by the conservative Hudson Institute that featured Steve Bannon, a former senior adviser to President Donald Trump and the ex-chairman of Breitbart News
  • when Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, visited the US in March, a magazine bearing his face and celebrating his reign appeared at 200,000 outlets across the country. The Saudi Embassy denied knowledge of the magazine, and the company that published it, National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., denied receiving guidance from the Saudis. Citing employees of American Media Inc, The New York Times later reported that the magazine was an attempt by the publisher’s CEO to win business in Saudi Arabia. Still, there was evidence that the Saudi Embassy and advisers to the Saudi royal family had received advanced copies of the publication, hinting that they were involved in its creation and fawning tone
  • Seeing Trump’s hostility toward Iran mirroring their own, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to strengthen their relationship with the former reality TV host when he took office, despite his harsh campaign-trail criticisms of Islam and Saudis (who, he once said, “want women as slaves and to kill gays”). In May, The New York Times reported that an emissary of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, held a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. ahead of the 2016 elections offering their support to Trump as well as social media help in winning the election.
  • “If you asked the average American about the Gulf and they see these commercials, they will not be able to tell the difference,” he said. “And for those who do know the difference, they will remember that Saudi Arabia, not Qatar, had its citizens participating in the 9/11 attacks.”
  • Qatar — or, at best, its friends — has been involved in the hacking and leaking of emails designed to embarrass the UAE and reveal its role in trying to influence the Trump campaign. Qatar has increased its spending on lobbyists while also trying to soften its image by wooing American Jewish groups, including the Zionist Organization of America, which previously called for Qatar to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. And in May, Qatar flexed its soft power muscles when it offered to pay to keep the Washington, DC, metro open after a Capitals playoff game.
  • “Instead of saying one country is better than the other, everyone looks really, really horrible,” he said. “It really raises questions about what kind of partners these countries are for the United States.”
Ed Webb

The complicated legacy of Qatar's World Cup - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • perhaps the biggest test case for what happens when a Middle Eastern nation intent on using oil money to enhance its influence through sports emerges on the global stage.
  • Can sports help bring societal progress to a region that has long resisted change? Or are those countries rewarded with reputational prestige despite human rights abuses that they have little intention to address?
  • “FIFA has a human rights policy that guarantees press freedom, women’s rights and nondiscrimination,” said Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch. “What the Qatar World Cup showed is that, if you have enough money, you can absolutely ignore those requirements.”
  • ...9 more annotations...
  • Owing to its small population of roughly 300,000 citizens, Qatar relies heavily on migrant workers. When it won the World Cup bid, it employed a labor system called kafala. Under kafala, migrant workers, mostly seeking to leave impoverished conditions elsewhere, have to pay exorbitant recruitment fees and cannot change jobs without the consent of their employer. The system led to rampant abuses that included wage theft and unsafe working conditions, ultimately resulting in the deaths of thousands of workers. Qatar also bans homosexuality, which it defends on religious grounds.
  • In 2016, Qatar said it would abide by the United Nations’ human rights code. In 2019, Qatar announced it would abolish kafala. In 2021, Qatar instituted a minimum wage. The Supreme Committee, Qatar’s World Cup host organization, created a workers’ welfare program for those who built World Cup infrastructure. By the sound of the first whistle last November, the country’s labor market was “radically transformed,” a FIFA spokesman said.“Would any of that have happened if they hadn’t hosted the World Cup?” said Mary Harvey, chief executive at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights. “Would kafala still be in place in Qatar if they hadn’t hosted the World Cup? That may not be the question people want to ask, but it’s important. … You don’t just flip the switch with a law change and expect an implementation is going to take hold. It’s going to take a generation probably to get this put in. But it’s still big change, and it’s change that is needed.”
  • Max Tuñón, head of the International Labor Organization’s Qatar office, said he has seen major improvements in working conditions for foreign laborers over the past five years.
  • We work all over the world, and we rarely see change happening at this pace
  • Rothna Begum, a Human Rights Watch researcher, has worked extensively in Qatar and visited with workers. (Unlike Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s government allows human rights groups to work in the country.) Begum said it is “not the case” that Qatar dismantled kafala in practice.“They didn’t do it properly, anyway,” Begum said. “They didn’t take away all the elements. They reformed aspects of the kafala system, but they didn’t dismantle the kafala system. The bits that they did reform, they are implementing in such a way that kafala still exists in practice.”
  • While workers can apply to change jobs, Begum said, she has found they must first give notice to their employer. If the employer does not sign a resignation notice, the worker cannot get permission from the government — “employer permission through the back door,”
  • “Qatari authorities — not just Qatari authorities but FIFA — sought to weaponize a narrative of Qatar being an underdog, that they were under attack in this double-standard way that no one else has been under attack before, and it’s because they are a Middle Eastern country,” Begum said. “Rather than dealing with the fact that they just did not come through with reforms and did not protect migrant workers who really contribute to the success of the World Cup and made sure they got their wages and compensated them for it, they instead used this narrative and weaponized it. We’re seeing the Saudis and UAE are moving in that direction.”
  • Qatar’s reforms also did not address the biggest cost of the World Cup: the migrant workers who died — in the thousands according to human rights groups, a number disputed by the Qatari government — while building stadiums and other infrastructure FIFA required after working in extreme heat on strict schedules. Human Rights Watch challenged whether Qatar could move forward with meaningful reform without compensating the families of the workers who died.
  • FIFA instituted its human rights policy in 2017 in response to criticism about Qatar. That policy may receive a more stringent test in coming years. Saudi Arabia, whose government has jailed and executed dissidents, submitted a bid to host the 2034 World Cup and is the favorite to host the tournament. Unlike Qatar, Saudi Arabia has not met with human rights groups.
Ed Webb

Qatar's Gulf Allies Have Had Enough of Doha's Broken Promises - 1 views

  • Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states woke up on Monday morning to what is the most severe crisis in the regional block’s 38 year history to date. In a closely coordinated series of statements, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, along with Egypt, announced the severing of ties with the peninsular state of Qatar.
  • In what may be the most debilitating move, Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia—which is its only land border —has been shut and all flights over Saudi and UAE airspace has been closed off to Qatar bound flights and Qatar Airways. Qatari citizens have been given two weeks to leave Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE and all travel by these countries citizens to Qatar is now prohibited.
  • Other Qatar backed networks that were accused of incitement on official Gulf TV channels include Al Quds Al Arabi (Arab Jerusalem) newspaper which was founded in London in 1989, online Arabic news portal Arabi 21, the London based website Middle East Eye, the Arabic version of Huffington Post which is headed by former Al Jazeera boss Waddah Khanfar and Al Khaleej Al Jadeed (the New Gulf).
  • ...4 more annotations...
  • It is likely that this time the Gulf States will demand the complete shuttering of the Al Jazeera TV Network before any mediation can take place. Additionally, the plug will have to be pulled on networks funded by Qatar such as Al Araby Al Jadeed (The New Arab), originally set up to compete with Al Jazeera and headed by former Arab Israeli politician Azmi Bishara.
  • will also demand the expulsion of all Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their Hamas affiliate figures from Qatar, along with Azmi Bishara and Islamist writer Yasser Al-Za'atra. Other demands will include the sacking of Al Arab newspaper editor Abdullah Al Athba
  • It seems though the initial pressure has already somewhat worked on Qatar. Last week Doha deported Saudi activist Mohammed Al-Otaibi who arrived in Qatar in March, while a number of Hamas officials have left Qatar at the country’s request.
  • Qatar imports over 90 percent of its food, and by one estimate about 40 percent of that comes from the its only land border, which is now closed. Within hours photos started circulating on social media of Qatari supermarket aisles that have been emptied by panicked shoppers. Furthermore Gulf media has hinted at an escalation of the dispute with Qatari commercial and trade ties being severed next.
Ed Webb

Qatar Opens Its Doors to All, to the Dismay of Some - The New York Times - 0 views

  • the atmosphere of intrigue and opulence for which the capital of Qatar, a dust-blown backwater until a few decades ago, has become famous as the great freewheeling hub of the Middle East
  • what infuriates the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis most of all is that Doha has also provided shelter to Islamist dissidents from their own countries — and given them a voice on the Qatar-owned television station, Al Jazeera.
  • The blockading nations — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — insist that Qatar is using an open-door policy to destabilize its neighbors. They say that Doha, rather than the benign meeting ground described by Qataris, is a city where terrorism is bankrolled, not battled against.
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • In Doha, wealthy Qataris and Western expatriates mingle with Syrian exiles, Sudanese commanders and Libyan Islamists, many of them funded by the Qatari state. The Qataris sometimes play peacemaker: Their diplomats brokered a peace deal in Lebanon in 2008 and negotiated the release of numerous hostages, including Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist being held in Syria, in 2014.But critics say that, often as not, rather than acting as a neutral peacemaker, Qatar takes sides in conflicts — helping oust Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, or turning a blind eye to wealthy citizens who funnel cash to extremist Islamist groups in Syria.
  • that welcome-all attitude is precisely what has recently angered Qatar’s much larger neighbors and plunged the Middle East into one of its most dramatic diplomatic showdowns
  • “The Emiratis and the Saudis seem to have miscalculated their position,” said Mehran Kamrava, the author of “Qatar: Small State, Big Politics” and a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “They thought that if they went all-out with a blockade, the Qataris would balk. But they haven’t.”
  • American officials privately say they would prefer Hamas was based in Doha rather than in a hostile capital like Tehran
  • Qatar is leveraging the wide range of ties its foreign policy has fostered. Food supplies and a few dozen soldiers from Turkey arrived in Doha after the embargo started on June 5.
Ed Webb

How Two Persian Gulf Nations Turned The US Media Into Their Battleground - 0 views

  • Two rival Persian Gulf nations have for the past year been conducting a tit-for-tat battle of leaked emails in US news outlets that appears, at least in part, to have been an effort to influence Trump administration policy toward Iran.
  • On one side is the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy confederation of seven small states allied with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bitter foe. On the other is Qatar, another oil-rich Arab monarchy, but one that maintains friendly relations with Iran, with which it shares a giant natural gas field.
  • unfolding battle alarms transparency advocates who fear it will usher in an era in which computer hacking and the dissemination of hacked emails will become the norm in international foreign policy disputes
  • ...10 more annotations...
  • “You could spend years campaigning traditionally against someone or you could hack an email account and leak salacious details to the media. If you have no scruples, and access to hackers, the choice is obvious.”
  • This is the new warfare. This is something the governments use for commercial reasons, use for political reasons, and use to destroy their opponents
  • Tensions have been building for years between the UAE and Qatar. The two have feuded over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that many Persian Gulf monarchies see as a threat to their hereditary kingdoms. They’ve also been at odds over Qatar’s friendly relations with Iran and its backing of the Al Jazeera television channel, whose newscasts are often critical of Arab autocrats.The feud broke into the open on May 24 last year when someone hacked into the website and Twitter account of Qatar’s government news agency, QNA, and posted news stories and tweets that quoted the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, making bizarrely pro-Iran statements.Qatar disavowed the remarks within an hour, and its foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, quickly texted the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, that the statements weren’t true. Qatar took its official news website down, and still hasn’t brought it back online.But the damage had been done
  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia, with the backing of the Trump administration, used the hacked news stories as a pretext for severing relations with Qatar, imposing a blockade, and making 13 demands, including that Qatar cut all ties with Iran and shut down Al Jazeera and all other state-funded news sites.
  • “They weaponized fake news to justify the illegal blockade of Qatar,” said Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Washington-based media attaché. “In the year since then, we have seen their repeated use of cyberespionage, fake news, and propaganda to justify unlawful actions and obfuscate underhanded dealings.”
  • he FBI concluded that freelance Russian hackers had carried out the operation on the UAE’s behalf
  • In June of last year, someone began leaking the contents of a Hotmail account belonging to Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s flashy ambassador to the United States. The leaks were distributed to a group of online news sites, including the Huffington Post, the Intercept, and the Daily Beast.“The leakers claimed the documents had been provided to them by a paid whistleblower embedded in a Washington, DC, lobbyist group, though it’s clear from even a cursory examination that they were printed out from Al Otaiba’s Hotmail account,”
  • “It’s not clear whether Otaiba’s inbox was hacked or passed along by someone with access to the account,”
  • The most damaging email leaks came in March when someone went after Elliott Broidy, a 60-year-old American hired to lobby for the UAE, and whose company, Circinus, has received more than $200 billion in defense contracts from the country. In recent years, he’s been one of the loudest American voices against Qatar, employing tactics ranging from anti-Qatar op-eds to personally lobbying Donald Trump to support the blockade against it.Broidy was in a prime position to lobby the president. He was the Republican Party’s vice chair of fundraising until April 13, when he resigned after the Wall Street Journal revealed that he’d used Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay a 34-year-old former Playboy model $1.6 million in hush money after he’d gotten her pregnant. The Journal said leaked emails played no role in that coverage.
  • “There was thought and calculation behind how this material was being distributed,” Wieder, who wrote about the emails in a follow-up story, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s not the old-school, WikiLeaks, ‘everything’s up on a site; make what you will of it.’”
Ed Webb

Ethiopia: Exploiting the Gulf's scramble for the Horn of Africa - African Arguments - 0 views

  • the United Arab Emirates played a key behind-the-scenes role in facilitating the deal between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki. Both men met with Emirati leaders on several occasions before and during the reconciliation, and they have stayed in regular contact ever since.
  • After decades of disengagement, countries east of the Red Sea are scrambling to gain a greater footprint along the opposite coast. In response, states on the Horn such as Ethiopia are trying to leverage these rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics to enhance their own influence.
  • Relations between the Horn of Africa and Arab nations east of the Red Sea date back over millennia. They took a turn for the worse following the 1973 “Oil Crisis”, triggered when oil-producing Arab counties cut down production to punish Western countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Horn countries became collateral damage as inflation skyrocketed. To overcome economic devastation and soaring debt, they began to court oil-rich Gulf States, offering political loyalty and natural resources in return for aid. Countries such as Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, and Sudan invoked their cultural and religious connections with the Gulf in a bid to gain help in dealing with their balance of payment crisis and political instability. Arab nations seized the opportunity, using their wealth and newfound geostrategic importance to expand their influence in the Horn and secure key loyalties.
  • ...8 more annotations...
  • profound geopolitical shifts have now renewed the Middle East’s interest in the Horn and reinvigorated the strategic significance of countries west of the Red Sea. The two main reasons for this are the war in Yemen and deepening intra-Gulf rivalries. These factors have led three main groups to vie for influence in the Horn: the Arab axis (led by Saudi Arabia and UAE, but including Egypt and Bahrain); the Iran axis; and the Qatar-Turkey axis.
  • Saudi Arabia is reportedly developing a military base in Djibouti and is considering Ethiopian requests to supply it fuel for a year with delayed payments. Meanwhile, the UAE has agreed to provide Ethiopia with huge loans, investment and infrastructure support; it has upgraded Eritrea’s Assab port and constructed a military headquarters nearby from which it has launched offensives into Yemen; and its company DP World has secured contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the ports in Berbera and Bosaso, located in the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland respectively.
  • main aim is to isolate Iran, with which it has a long-standing feud, and contain the influence of the Qatar-Turkey Axis, which it accuses of promoting “political Islam”.
  • Qatar and Turkey also have deep footprints in the Horn through development aid, trade, and investments in infrastructure. Both are heavily involved in Somalia, where Turkey manages the capital’s ports and airports and has a military base. And both are investing heavily in Suakin in Sudan, with Qatar announcing a $4 billion plan to develop the port this March. There are reports that Qatar has also financed Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, drawing anger from Egypt and its Arab allies, though Ethiopia has denied these claims.
  • Somalia has been particularly affected by intra-Gulf rivalries as some regional governments have pulled in opposite directions in an aim to consolidate alliances across the sea.
  • Amidst the growing competition for influence among the Middle Eastern axes, Addis Ababa has managed to avoid taking sides – at least publicly – and leverage its geostrategic significance as the region’s hegemon to attract much-needed investment from several different partners.
  • Ethiopia has also positioned itself well to benefit from the complex scramble for Red Sea ports. The land-locked country relies on Djibouti for nearly 97% of its imports, but now has clear avenues for diversifying its routes to sea. The rapprochement with its neighbour should give it access to Eritrean ports, while the UAE’s development of Berbera in Somaliland will give it another crucial option. Ethiopia defied the Somali federal government’s objections when it supported the UAE’s deal with the semi-autonomous region, but in return it has acquired a 19% stake in the project.
  • The combination of Gulf’s transactional politics and Africa’s often kleptocratic leadership could prove treacherous as historic rivalries take on new twists and matters develop beyond the Horn’s control.
Ed Webb

Qatar Crisis: A Cautionary Tale - 0 views

  • As ties with the Obama White House deteriorated, ruling circles in Gulf capitals became increasingly muscular in pursuing their own regional interests. This was, in part, a reaction by Saudi and Emirati officials to Qatar’s assertive approach to the uprisings in North Africa and Syria between 2011 and 2013
  • The second phase of the Gulf states’ regional assertiveness (after Qatar’s activist approach in 2011 and 2012) played out in Libya, Yemen, the Gulf and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the UAE funneled tens of billions of dollars in financial aid and investment in infrastructure designed to kickstart the ailing Egyptian economy. The UAE coordinated closely with Egypt and Russia to triangulate support for the Libyan strongman, Khalifa Haftar, as he battled Islamist militias in eastern Libya, carving out a largely autonomous sphere of influence separate from the internationally backed political process in Tripoli. The Saudis and Emiratis, together with the Bahrainis, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March 2014 and accused Doha of interfering in the domestic affairs of its regional neighbors.
  • On the international stage, King Salman of Saudi Arabia made clear his displeasure with the Obama administration by canceling his planned attendance of the US-GCC summit at Camp David in May 2015. Six weeks earlier, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had launched Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. The Yemen war was designed to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, ousted in 2014 by the tactical alliance of Iran-allied Houthi rebels and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s armed loyalists. Launched just five days before the initial deadline (later extended to July 2015) in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, the decision to take military action to counter and roll back perceived Iranian influence in Yemen represented a Saudi-led rebuke to the Obama administration’s belief that it was possible to separate the nuclear issue from Iran’s meddling in regional affairs.
  • ...11 more annotations...
  • Another UAE-based visitor during the transition was Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos (President-elect Trump’s nominee as secretary of education). Prince had been hired by Abu Dhabi to develop a private security force after the demise of Blackwater in 2009. He “presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis” and met with a Russian official in a UAE-brokered meeting in the Seychelles shortly before the inauguration, reportedly as part of an effort to establish a backchannel of communication over Syria and Iran.
  • In the early weeks of the administration, Kushner also reached out to Saudi policymakers, including Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud — like Kushner an ambitious millennial who had entered policymaking from a business background. They shared uncannily similar nicknames: “Mr. Everything” (MBS) and the “Secretary of Everything” (Kushner). The two men grew close and reportedly stayed up until nearly 4am “swapping stories and planning strategy” during an unannounced visit Kushner made to Saudi Arabia in October 2017.
  • A president and his senior staff determined to do things their way and bypass the traditional playbook of US foreign policy and international diplomacy offered a potentially rich opening for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as did the political inexperience of many of the new appointees in the White House
  • The expectation in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that the Trump presidency would adopt hawkish positions on regional issues such as Iran and Islamism that aligned closely with their own was reaffirmed by the appointments of James Mattis as secretary of defense and Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA
  • President Trump discussed Qatar’s “purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs, and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.” The president’s comments made his subsequent swing against Qatar, after the Saudi and Emirati-led diplomatic and economic blockade began on June 5, 2017, even more surprising to observers of the presidency’s transactional approach to diplomacy.
  • the McClatchy news agency reported that SCL Social Limited, a part of the same SCL Group as Cambridge Analytica (the data mining firm where Bannon served as vice president before joining the White House) had disclosed a $330,000 contract with the UAE National Media Council. The contract included “a wide range of services specific to a global media campaign,” including $75,000 for a social media campaign targeting Qatar during the UN General Assembly. McClatchy observed, too, that Bannon had visited Abu Dhabi to meet with MBZ in September 2017, and that Breitbart (the media platform associated with Bannon both before and after his brief White House stint) had published more than 80 mostly negative stories about Qatar since the GCC crisis erupted
  • a striking element about the Saudi-Emirati outreach is the limited success it achieved. Officials may have seized the opportunity to shape the administration’s thinking and succeeded temporarily, in June 2017, in getting the president to support the initial action against Qatar, but that proved a high watermark in cooperation that did not lead to any substantive follow-through
  • The transactional approach to policymaking taken by the Trump presidency is not necessarily underpinned by any deeper or underlying commitment to a relationship of values or even interests. An example of this came in July 2017 when President Trump told Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network that he had made his presence at the Riyadh summit conditional on $110 billion in arms sales and other agreements signed with Saudi Arabia. “I said, you have to do that, otherwise I’m not going,” bragged the president.
  • Although the crisis in the Gulf may have passed its most dangerous moment — when for a few days in June 2017 the possibility of Saudi and Emirati military action against Qatar was deemed so serious by US officials that Secretary of State Tillerson reportedly had to warn MBS and MBZ against any precipitous action — it has had significant negative consequences for both the region and Washington. In the Gulf, four decades of diplomatic and technocratic cooperation among the six GCC states has been put at risk, threatening the survival of one of the hitherto most durable regional organizations in the Arab world.
  • It is hard to see how the GCC can recover after the sub-regional institution has failed to prevent three of its members from turning on a fourth twice in three years, and when it has been absent at every stage of the crisis, from the initial list of grievances to the subsequent attempts at mediation.
  • Washington’s policy approaches toward Qatar appear now to have settled on the view that the standoff is detrimental to American strategic interests both in the Gulf and across the broader Middle East and should be resolved by Kuwaiti-led mediation. However, the confused signals that came out of the Trump administration during its first six months in office do constitute a cautionary tale. They illustrate the vulnerability of a new and inexperienced political class to influence, which came close to jeopardizing a key US partnership in the Middle East. Unlike, say, the US and Iran, there are no clearly defined good and bad sides the US should support or oppose in its dealings with the GCC members, all of whom have been pivotal, in different ways, to the projection of US power and influence in the region.
Ed Webb

Qatar's agriculture push risks further groundwater depletion - 0 views

  • Qatar's leading news outlets recently reported that local agricultural production has jumped by 400% since a political and economic blockade was imposed on the emirate by its Arab neighbors in 2017. And within a few years, 40% to 50% of fresh products could be produced locally,
  • the blockade caused Qatar to realize its vulnerability when it comes to the food supply
  •  recently ranked as the most water-stressed country in the world. It is also one of the few countries with no permanent rivers as rainfall is extremely unpredictable and highly erratic
  • ...11 more annotations...
  • Qatar’s fast-growing agriculture has been looking deep underground for its water.
  • Each year, 92% of the 250 million cubic meters (75,000 acre-feet) of groundwater withdrawn from the country's aquifers is given free of charge to farmers
  • At Baladna, Qatar's largest producer of fresh dairy products, 12,000 cows produce 400 tons of fresh milk and and other dairy goods a day. The company’s press officer, Saba Mohammed Nasser Al Fadala, acknowledges that "cows were not made for the desert."
  • Artificial recharges and irrigation return flows reduce this loss but also may be polluting the aquifers, in part because of chemical fertilizers used by farmers
  • groundwater depletion causes seawater intrusion into aquifers: In 2014, 69% of wells in Qatar were classified as moderately saline
  • Half of the groundwater allocated to agriculture is utilized to grow fodder that feeds 60% to 70% of the 1.6 million head of livestock in Qatar.
  • Qatar withdraws nearly four times as much water from its aquifers than is replenished by rainfall each year
  • To mitigate the depletion of Qatar’s aquifers, local authorities plan to ban the use of groundwater to grow fodder by 2025 and restrict it to vegetable crops. Treated sewage water that is currently allocated to the irrigation of green spaces, deep injection into aquifers and agriculture is to be used for fodder.
  • Freshwater reserves for Qatar are estimated at 2.5 billion cubic meters. However, an annual groundwater deficit of some 100 million cubic meters or more puts Qatar's future in a precarious situation
  • each Baladna cow requires an average of 700 liters of water a day, most of which is used for misting in Qatar's heat. The press officer said up to 80% of this water can be recycled
  • The Ministry of Municipality and Environment says it supports those who reduce their groundwater consumption and move toward hydroponic farming. A budget of $2.75 million to $3.3 million has been allocated to a program that aims to provide up to 140 farms with free greenhouses
Ed Webb

Opinion: Tunisia, A Gulf Crisis Battleground | The North Africa Journal - 0 views

  • Since the Arab Spring uprisings shook the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2010/2011, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have sought to be drivers of political developments in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—and, to lesser extents, Algeria and Morocco—not only through petrodollar diplomacy, but also through direct military intervention
  • The three-year-old GCC crisis—pitting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar since mid-2017—has significantly regionalized
  • By far, the Gulf crisis has played out more destructively in Libya than anywhere else in the Maghreb. Yet Tunisia is a salient example of how another North African country became an arena for the Gulf rivalry albeit one where far less violence has erupted
  • ...20 more annotations...
  • From the beginning of the Arabian feud, officials in Tunis stressed their preference for not picking sides while also offering to help with diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the crisis.
  • Qatar gave Tunisia critical financial support in 2012 that helped the government in Tunis maintain domestic stability amid a sensitive period of time following the Jasmine Revolution. While under growing International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressure after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, Tunisia received USD 500 million from the Qatari National Bank
  • Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab Spring protests that shook Tunisia in 2010/2011 secured some greater soft-power influence for Qatar among Tunisian revolutionaries
  • Those leading Ennahda had ties to Doha dating back to the 1990s when Qatar was beginning its escape from the Saudi-led, counter-revolutionary order of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Emirati press often reports on the politics of post-Arab Spring Tunisia in ways that depict the country as having fallen under too much influence of Islamists, who are by definition “terrorists” as Abu Dhabi sees it
  • After Nidaa Tounes took power in 2015, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan paid his first visit to Tunisia since 2011. While in Tunis, he met with then-President Beji Caid Essebsi, who founded Nidaa Tounes, and he invited him to the Emirates. Essebsi also paid Egypt’s president a visit in October 2015 and invited Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Tunis. According to Emirati calculations, these developments were supposed to weaken Doha-Tunis relations. By opening up more channels of communication with Ennahda’s domestic opponents, Abu Dhabi wanted to bring Tunisia’s regional foreign policy into closer alignment with the Emirates, and further away from the Qatari-Turkish axis.
  • Just as the Qataris helped Tunisia maintain its stability during the aftermath of its 2010/2011 revolution, the Tunisians paid them back in terms of assistance in the domain of food security after the Saudi- and Emirati-imposed siege began.
  • Qatar is the top Arab investor in Tunisia
  • From 2011 to 2019, Doha’s exports to Tunisia doubled six times while Tunisian exports to Qatar doubled ten times. Qatar and Tunisia’s growing relationship has manifested in the signing of 80 agreements across a range of areas
  • leaders in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have seen the Jasmine Revolution as a threat to their model of “authoritarian stability” which entails support for Arab dictators such as Ben Ali. Both the Saudi and Emirati governments have major concerns about any country in the Maghreb holding free elections that open up the possibility of Islamists being empowered to govern. Furthermore, the growth of Qatari influence in Tunisia following Ben Ali’s fall has irked both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh
  • Certain segments of the population saw Doha’s agenda as geared toward supporting political Islam, not democratic revolutions in the Arab region. Such perceptions of Doha pushing Tunisia under the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence created problems for Qatar among many Tunisians who oppose Islamism.
  • One of the reasons why the UAE has more influence in Tunisia than the Saudis pertains to the Emiratis’ culture and ethos of trade and commerce which Tunisian businessmen easily understand and appreciate.
  • To this point, the majority of Tunisians are indifferent to the ideological underpinnings of the Gulf feud and simply want as much investment from as many Gulf and non-Gulf states as possible. The percentage of Tunisians who are staunchly ‘pro-Qatar’ or ‘pro-UAE’ is below 50, yet their percentage is increasing which underscores how the GCC crisis’ impact on Tunisia has been polarizing
  • Many of these citizens who staunchly welcomed the Jasmine Revolution see Abu Dhabi as a counter-revolutionary force seeking to topple Tunisia’s democratic government. A common narrative is that the Emiratis would like to do to Tunisia what they did to Egypt in 2013 in terms of bankrolling a coup d’état to reverse an Arab Spring revolution.
  • The UAE’s hand in Tunisia is certainly weaker than it is in Egypt or Libya. Tunisia lacks a military or “Deep State” that the Emiratis would be able to coordinate with to stage a popular coup d’état in which the putschists could enjoy a degree of legitimacy among Tunisians comparable to what the Egyptian junta enjoyed among ordinary Egyptians in 2013
  • Ennahda was more humble, moderate, and modest during its time at the helm compared to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). As a result, Ennahda left Tunisians, including those who oppose political Islam, with less reason to favor a coup d’état to end the Islamist party’s role in the country system of governance.
  • UAE seems more set on preventing Tunisia from being pushed into the Qatari-Turkish axis’s orbit, particularly with respect to the conflict in Libya. Ironically, as Hamdi posits, Tunisia’s non-aligned politics vis-à-vis Libya’s civil war, which the UAE seems to accept, “is in line with Tunisian public opinion which predominantly [favors Tunisian] neutrality and a political solution and view Turkey’s military intervention with much suspicion.”
  • there are signs that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are frustrated with Tunisia’s view of the UN-recognized GNA as legitimate and Tunis’s opposition to foreign (including Emirati, Egyptian, and Russian) intervention in the conflict
  • Among secular Tunisians from elite backgrounds, there is a common narrative that Doha has been sponsoring terrorism and radicalism in their country. This message is in lock-step alignment with Abu Dhabi’s narratives about Qatar being a dangerous power in the Arab region. In fact, some opponents of Ennahda have even accused the party of covering for Qatar’s alleged role as a driver of terrorism in post-Ben Ali Tunisia and wished that Tunis would have supported the blockade of Doha in 2017
  • that Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda reached a political compromise has helped Tunisia achieve significant political stability and peace despite all the chaos in the region. Experts agree that this landmark “secularist-Islamist rapprochement” could have been severely undermined by Tunis picking sides in the GCC dispute
Ed Webb

UAE eases Qatar shipping ban amid continuing dispute | Reuters - 0 views

  • The United Arab Emirates has eased a ban on the shipping of goods between it and Qatar enforced under a political and economic boycott of Doha, according to port circulars and an industry source.
  • An Abu Dhabi Ports circular dated Feb. 12 canceled previous directives that banned cargoes of Qatar origin from UAE waters and ports and those of UAE origin from Qatar.
  • It maintained a ban on vessels flying the Qatar flag, owned by Qatari shipping firms or nationals. UAE-flagged vessels still cannot call at Qatar ports.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • On the political front, there has been no indication of a thaw. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have said the dispute is not a priority and that Qatar must accept a list of conditions before ties are restored. Qatar has said that although it would like the matter resolved it is moving on and last year quit oil producer group OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is de facto leader.
  • Qatar’s economy has largely weathered the boycott thanks to the tiny country’s vast wealth, which was swiftly deployed by the government to support the financial sector. The world’s largest natural gas exporter also forged new trade links to meet domestic demand, including basic goods such as food, and construction material as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.
Ed Webb

Qatar, UAE spend heavily on lobbyists amid a war of words | News & Observer - 1 views

  • a multimillion-dollar battle for influence in Washington between bitter rivals Qatar and the United Arab Emirates
  • On Qatar's roster: Republican former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose law firm received a $2.5 million retainer, and ex-advisers to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. The UAE has an arrangement with The Harbour Group, a public relations and public affairs firm, for up to $5 million annually. The UAE's ambassador to the United States also relies heavily on his former director of legislative affairs, Hagir Elawad. She's now a registered lobbyist who earns $25,000 a month as the embassy's chief liaison to Capitol Hill.
  • a business associate of Broidy's, George Nader, had wired $2.5 million for an influence campaign Broidy was coordinating in Washington that accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism. Nader is a political adviser to the UAE and now a witness in the U.S. special counsel investigation into foreign meddling in American politics
  • ...3 more annotations...
  • a top fundraiser for Trump filed a lawsuit against the government of Qatar and several lobbyists working for Qatar, claiming they hacked his and his wife's emails. Elliott Broidy alleged that hackers from Qatar broke into their email accounts and Qatar's lobbying team then distributed the emails to journalists in an effort to discredit him.
  • Agents of foreign governments are required to register with the Justice Department before lobbying so that there is a public record of their activities. But neither Broidy nor Nader is registered
  • Qatar has been under siege since early June, when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and its other neighbors severed ties over claims the small, gas-rich monarchy was funding terrorism, disrupting Gulf unity and fomenting opposition across the region. They cut Qatar's air, sea and land routes, creating a de facto blockade. The countries vowed to isolate Qatar economically until it heeds their demands. But Qatar, which has denied supporting or funding terror groups, has insisted it can survive indefinitely on its own. The crisis, according to Qatari officials, was triggered nearly a year ago when hackers took over their state-run news agency and posted fabricated comments attributed to Qatar's ruler that called Iran an "Islamic power" and said Qatar's relations with Israel were "good."
Ed Webb

GCC crisis, one year on: What's the impact on Gulf economies? | GCC | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • A year ago, the four Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a full land, sea and air blockade on Qatar.  Since then, the richest country in the world per person, was forced to tap into its sovereign wealth fund and do everything it could to shore up its economy, banking system and currency.
  • Ayham Kamel, head of MENA at global risk consultancy Eurasia Group, talks to Counting the Cost.
  • I think one year after the beginning of the Qatar crisis with the other GCC members, the economy is not crashing and Qatar seems to have adjusted to what is a very challenging situation.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • on the diplomatic front, we've seen an effort to engage with alternative powers - not only the US, but broadly to establish new trade links, try to cement those. So you have Qatar not really in an isolated position internationally, and that's a function of both, the importance of the gas reserves and gas exports, but also the financial cushion that Qatar has through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority
  • when it comes to the UAE and Dubai specifically, some of the repercussions have been more serious or more tangible. Be it financial transactions being shifted from Dubai to London or New York where Qatar has been involved, so there's a loss of business volumes there. And certainly when it comes to Jebel Ali and the exports through Jebel Ali, that have now been rerouted to Oman. So, we've seen a bit more of an impact there
Ed Webb

Doha sues 'QatarExposed' for spreading false info | Qatar News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Qatar's government communication office has filed a lawsuit in the United States against people who launched a social media campaign to spread false lies about the Gulf state to harm its interests. In its complaint before a court in the state of New York, the office said its defendants used social media accounts since October 2017 to spread fake information about Qatar and that it harbours "terrorism".
  • the adverts accusing Qatar of funding "terrorism" and mistreating foreign workers were paid for by "secretive campaign groups" - Qatar Exposed and Kick Qatar Out, neither of which own websites on the Internet. The two Twitter accounts were created within minutes of each other last October. According to analysts, the two campaigns are funded by groups linked to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which, along with Bahrain and Egypt, have severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar.
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Turning Qatar into an Island: Saudi cuts off... - 0 views

  • There’s a cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the face aspect to a Saudi plan to turn Qatar into an island by digging a 60-kilometre ocean channel through the two countries’ land border that would accommodate a nuclear waste heap as well as a military base. If implemented, the channel would signal the kingdom’s belief that relations between the world’s only two Wahhabi states will not any time soon return to the projection of Gulf brotherhood that was the dominant theme prior to the United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led imposition in June of last year of a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar.
  • The message that notions of Gulf brotherhood are shallow at best is one that will be heard not only in Doha, but also in other capitals in the region
  • the nuclear waste dump and military base would be on the side of the channel that touches the Qatari border and would effectively constitute a Saudi outpost on the newly created island.
  • ...7 more annotations...
  • The plan, to be funded by private Saudi and Emirati investors and executed by Egyptian firms that helped broaden the Suez Canal, also envisions the construction of five hotels, two ports and a free trade zone.
  • The $750 million project would have the dump ready for when Saudi Arabia inaugurates the first two of its 16 planned nuclear reactors in 2027. Saudi Arabia is reviewing proposals to build the reactors from US, Chinese, French, South Korean contractors and expects to award the projects in December.
  • Qatar’s more liberal Wahhabism of the sea contrasts starkly with the Wahhabism of the land that Prince Mohammed is seeking to reform. The crown prince made waves last year by lifting a ban on women’s driving, granting women the right to attend male sporting events in stadiums, and introducing modern forms of entertainment like, music, cinema and theatre – all long-standing fixtures of Qatari social life and of the ability to reform while maintaining autocratic rule.
  • A traditional Gulf state and a Wahhabi state to boot, Qatari conservatism was everything but a mirror image of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing puritan way of life. Qatar did not have a powerful religious establishment like the one in Saudi Arabia that Prince Mohammed has recently whipped into subservience, nor did it implement absolute gender segregation. Non-Muslims can practice their faith in their own houses of worship and were exempted from bans on alcohol and pork. Qatar became a sponsor of the arts and hosted the controversial state-owned Al Jazeera television network that revolutionized the region’s controlled media landscape and became one of the world’s foremost global English-language broadcasters.
  • Qatari conservatism is likely what Prince Mohammed would like to achieve even if that is something he is unlikely to acknowledge
  • “I consider myself a good Wahhabi and can still be modern, understanding Islam in an open way. We take into account the changes in the world,” Abdelhameed Al Ansari, the then dean of Qatar University’s College of Sharia, a leader of the paradigm shift, told The Wall Street Journal in 2002.
  • if built, the channel would suggest that geopolitical supremacy has replaced ultra-conservative, supremacist religious doctrine as a driver of the king-in-waiting’s policy
Ed Webb

Analysis: Has the Gulf reconciled after the Qatar blockade? | GCC | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • From beginning to end, the blockade of Qatar was a textbook study of a regional crisis in the age of US President Donald Trump and the weakening of the rules-based international order. What amounted to a power play designed to isolate Qatar politically and economically began with the hacking of the Qatar News Agency and the planting of a fake news story purporting to report incendiary comments by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. This made the chain of events that followed a real-world manifestation of a crisis rooted in the notion of “alternative facts”
  • a series of interactions seemingly intent on appealing to the transactional and unconventional style of decision-making in the White House by creating and amplifying an influence campaign portraying Qatar as a negative actor in regional affairs.
  • By September 2017, the blockade had settled into a holding pattern that lasted for the remainder of Trump’s turbulent presidency
  • ...4 more annotations...
  • a recognition of flexibility that relations between Qatar and the four blockading states will not all proceed at the same speed or depth. Already, there are signs that ties have improved fastest and farthest with Saudi Arabia and (to a lesser extent) Egypt, which likely reflects the fact that much of the original animosity behind the blockade did not originate in Riyadh or in Cairo
  • hardly surprising that the transition from Trump to Biden also saw the ending of a blockade that would likely never have happened under any other president
  • The failure of the Trump administration to respond to the series of attacks on maritime and energy targets in and around Saudi Arabia and the UAE culminated in Trump publicly distinguishing between US and Saudi interests in the aftermath of the missile and drone attacks against Saudi oil facilities. The 2019 attacks, linked to Iran, punctured the regional assertiveness of Saudi and Emirati policymaking as well as the assumption, particularly when it came to anything to do with Iran, that their interests and US interests were effectively one and the same
  • The blockade of Qatar was the longest rift in the history of the GCC, which marked its 40th anniversary on May 25, and, unlike previous periods of tension, its effect was not restricted to the level of leaders and policymaking elites but encompassed whole nations. Damage done to the social fabric of the “Gulf house” may take longer to repair and memories of the bitterness and rancour on media and social media platforms could linger. For the time being and the foreseeable future, though, all parties to the blockade are likely to establish a modus vivendi at least until the regional or international context changes again
Ed Webb

Qatar moves to announce abolishment of kafala system | News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Qatar has pledged to abolish its labour system that ties migrant workers to their employer and requires them to have their company's permission to leave the country as part of sweeping reforms to its labour market.
  • Under Qatar's "kafala" (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers must obtain their employers' permission - a no-objection certificate (NOC) - before changing jobs, a law that rights activists say ties them with their employers and leads to abuse and exploitation.
  • Qatar and its labour laws have been under the spotlight ever since the country was named the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Its government has pledged to resolve labour disputes in the run-up to the tournament.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • Protesting workers, mostly from Bangladesh, told Al Jazeera that in addition to poor living conditions, they had not been paid for four months, the companies had failed to renew their work permits - making their status in Qatar illegal - and were not given the required letters that would allow them to switch employers.
  • Last year, Qatar announced it was abolishing the need for exit permits for non-domestic migrant workers. It also did away with the need for an NOC if the migrant worker completed the contract duration or finished five years in the event of an undefined time period in a contract.
Ed Webb

South Asian Migrant Workers Face Pandemic Deportations From Middle East - 0 views

  • The Doha Industrial Area, already infamous for slum conditions and overcrowded camps, is now under strict police monitoring and effectively sealed off. The area mostly hosts workers building infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, who even before the pandemic faced poor conditions and unsafe workspaces. The Qatari government has denied the allegations, but they’re part of a pattern of abuse of migrant workers not just in Qatar but across the Middle East—workers who are now dangerously exposed to the vagaries of authoritarian governments during the pandemic.
  • The oil-rich Middle East countries built their fortresses with the blood and sweat of foreign laborers, but during the pandemic the workers, who live in crowded dormitories, are seen as a source of infection.
  • 1.5 million Nepalis work in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, and 400,000 in Qatar. Most of the Nepali workers are stuck abroad due to Nepal’s closure of its borders until April 30, leaving them highly vulnerable—although foreign governments have forced Nepal to accept some flights of deportees.
  • ...4 more annotations...
  • Many South Asian countries are equally dependent on remittances from their workers abroad, according to the World Bank’s 2019 data, including India ($82 billion in remittances), Bangladesh ($17 billion), Pakistan ($21 billion), and Sri Lanka ($7 billion).
  • South Asian countries have either ignored the plight of these workers during the pandemic or made no significant plans to ease their hardships. In part, that’s because the workers tend to be from the poorest and least politically powerful groups at home.
  • As coronavirus cases rise in the Middle East, migrant workers from around the world, and particularly from South Asia, will be the worst-hit.
  • The UAE has threatened that Nepal and other South Asian countries must repatriate the workers or face the suspension of bilateral labor agreements.
Ed Webb

Who in the GCC wants a union? - 0 views

  • Citing “security problems, economic challenges and other serious issues confronted by the region,” Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa recently announced that the transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a union is an “inevitable goal” of this month’s Manama Dialogue (Dec. 9-11).
  • With absolutely no illusions that Oman — historically the most independent member of the GCC — has changed its position, last month Ghanem al-Buainain, Bahrain’s minister of Parliament Affairs, stated that he sensed “great enthusiasm for the union from the other Gulf members.”
  • Many non-Saudis in the GCC view Saudi Arabia as an important ally, yet they also see the oil-rich kingdom as an overbearing neighbor who does not always respect the smaller Arab Gulf states’ sovereignty. Due to a host of domestic issues in the GCC and regional developments, which the Arab Gulf families see through different lenses, Riyadh and Manama officials may see their plan for a union falling on deaf ears.
  • ...7 more annotations...
  • Kuwait is the GCC state with the most vibrant political life and democratic institutions. Opposition to a union from Kuwait is largely attributable to concerns about “collective security actions” that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states could pursue to silence dissent and activism in Kuwait. Last month’s snap elections in Kuwait will bring in parliamentarians to the National Assembly from an opposition made up of liberals and Islamists whom other GCC states would not permit to hold any position of power in their own political systems. As many Kuwaitis take pride in their “half-democracy” and relative transparency and openness, the concept of a union has met its share of resistance in the country from voices across its political spectrum.
  • Doha has established ties with Islamist factions throughout the region and hosted many Muslim Brotherhood members — often done so at the expense of healthy relations with other GCC states. If other Arab Gulf countries such as the UAE, which designate the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group, and Qatar belong to a union, what will be the future of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other prominent Islamist figures who live in Doha?
  • Emiratis view themselves as a rival of Saudi Arabia for a dominant role in the region’s financial landscape, Abu Dhabi would not lend its support to a Riyadh-based Gulf central bank. In the UAE, where the authorities are waging a crackdown on Islamists, there has long been a belief that the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the Emirates on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the purpose of undermining the UAE’s national sovereignty and independence.
  • Oman’s interest in deepening ties with Iran in commercial, diplomatic, energy and security spheres is a major factor driving Omani opposition to a union
  • Given the Kuwaiti and Qatari royal families’ cordial relationship with their countries’ Shiites who are loyal to the Al Sabah (Kuwait) and Al Thani (Qatar) rulers, threats of an Iranian-inspired Shiite revolution or rebellion have not provoked substantial sectarian tension in Kuwait since the end of the first Gulf war, nor has it ever done so in Qatar at any point following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. This outlook fundamentally contrasts with Saudi Arabia’s and Bahrain’s outlook, which is based on an understanding of Iran being a predatory state committed to toppling the Al Sauds and Al Khalifas through a violent revolution. Manama and Riyadh’s shared view of the Islamic Republic as an existential threat has closely aligned the two kingdoms and led Bahrain to maintain its strong support for a de facto Saudi-led union.
  • the option of perhaps one day importing Iranian gas may receive greater consideration if they remain relatively independent from Saudi Arabia in the framework of a council (not union) and their economic ills increase their interest in importing more natural gas. Yet a union would erase any realistic Kuwaiti or Emirati plans for signing gas contracts with Iran
  • there are grave concerns in the GCC about the US’ long-term commitment as the council’s security guarantor
1 - 20 of 192 Next › Last »
Showing 20 items per page