06/08/2017, 14.52
QATAR – GULF – IRAN
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As Riyadh dictates its conditions to end the crisis, Doha looks for new alliances

Qatar denies rumours about panic and long supermarket queues. People comment Saudi blockade with irony. Ankara approves sending troops to Qatar in accordance with a mutual defence agreement. Talks to settle the controversy continue. Qatar seeks to boost ties with China, India, and Russia.

Doha (AsiaNews) – Pro-Saudi media have reported widespread panic in Qatar following the break in diplomatic relations and the closure of airspace and land border crossings.

Qatari authorities have posted footage online to disprove rumours that people are lined up in front of supermarkets in a frenzy to buy supplies. In fact, life in Qatar's capital goes on as if nothing happened.

Indeed, in spite a ban on criticising and provoking other Gulf countries, Qataris have posted sarcastic comments on social media ridiculing the economic blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (EAU).

Their special beef is with the embargo on dairy products as well as fruit and vegetables, which have been replaced by fresh produce coming directly from Turkey.

Shipments of Saudi-made Marajj cheese and yogurt that arrived yesterday in Doha were sent back after Qatari customs denied them entry.

Qatar, in fact, is far from being isolated. On the contrary, the crisis that broke out following the official visit of US President Donald Trump to the region has done nothing but split the states of the region into two blocks: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain vs Qatar, Oman, half of Yemen, and, to some extent, Kuwait, thus dividing the Gulf Cooperation Council.

With the airspace of its neighbours off limits, Qatar has drawn closer to Iran, Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s number one enemy.

At the military level, the Turkish parliament approved a resolution yesterday afternoon to send troops to Qatar under the Mutual Defence Agreement signed in 2014.

Likewise, President Trump’s remarks have pushed Doha closer to Moscow, and Germany, Great Britain and France have refused to join the anti-Qatar bandwagon, which pushed Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubair to refer to Qatar as a “sister country”.

For many analysts and experts, in his speech yesterday, Jubair seemed to be back peddling after a week of escalating tensions. Similarly, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Karkash yesterday said he wanted "policy change" in Qatar rather than "regime change".

The sudden campaign against Qatar and Islamic terrorism by Saudi Arabia and the UAE is a source of entertainment among people in the Arab world who are familiar with the origins of the Islamic State group, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, and its sponsors of many years.

Of course, this does not lessen the role played by Qatar or even the al-Jazeera television network, which Riyadh now wants shut down.

Yesterday, an anonymous source close to Qatar’s rulers spoke to AsiaNews about a possible solution to the crisis favourable to Qatar, which might avoid submitting to Saudi and UAE demands. "Tomorrow Emir Tamim Ben Hamad al-Thani will surprise everyone with a solution that will be impossible to reject," the source said.

The ten conditions set by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for renewed of diplomatic relations include severing relations with Iran, shutting down al-Jazeera as well as a number of Qatar-funded media outlets like the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Qods (Jerusalem) founded in 1989, the Ashark al-Awsat online news site, the Al Arabi Al Jadeed TV network, initially set up by Arab intellectual Azmi Bishara to compete with al- Jazeera, Huffington Post in Arabic, and the al Khalij al Jadeed newspaper.

Another condition is the expulsion of all Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas members from Qatar, and the shutting down of their offices and the freezing of their bank accounts.

The Saudis and Emiratis also want an end to the activities of many Islamic charities active in Qatar, which have been criticised by the US Department of State for their "suspicious” gifts to groups and movements operating in countries torn by civil wars and the so-called "Arab Spring".

Egypt, which has never forgiven Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood and former Egyptian President Morsi, has sent another signal of its displeasure. Yesterday, Egyptian authorities ordered mosques built with Qatari money to change their name replacing those of their Qatari benefactors.

Whilst positive signals about solving the crisis are coming from the Gulf, like the order to stop the slander campaign against Qatar in Saudi and Emirati media, some media have reported the reconstitution of the Qatar national salvation front, which had been dissolved after the current’s emir father replaced his grandfather on the country’s throne.

Although the diplomatic row can be settled, it has already left visible marks on relations between Arab Gulf states, which until a few years ago acted as one in foreign and economic policy.

For its part, Qatar, initially isolated, is emerging stronger than before. At present, it has begun reviewing its regional and international alliances with China, Russia, Iran, and India without compromising its ties with the West.

However, sources in Qatar say that Qatari Defence Minister Khaled al-Atiya has come under pressure. He is said to be undergoing secret interrogation for his alleged role in releasing to state media statements about Tehran attributed to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.

Qatari authorities blame those declarations, which sparked the spat with Saudi Arabia, on hackers.

According to some unconfirmed reports, al-Atiya also escaped a failed assassination attempt in the past 24 hours. (PB)

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