Nearly two weeks ago, there was insistent talk of reconciliation between the Arab Quartet, made up of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain on the one side, and Qatar on the other. As usual, the one leading the Gulf reconciliation efforts was the Emir of Kuwait, who is still trying to rearrange his cards at home.
This is in relation to both the opposition forces that fall under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist current at the same time, and other forces led by some princes who want to change the government in Kuwait.
But until now, the crisis with Doha continues. Rather, whenever there is talk of reconciliation, the Qatari media machine works with remarkable activity to undermine these attempts, even before they begin.
It is as if their state says, “We do not seek it”. The reason, of course, is that there are major parties in Doha, the former emir and his former foreign minister, who still see that the time is not ripe for reconciliation.
It is assumed that reconciliation will take place, or at least its signs will appear during the Gulf summit that Saudi Arabia is hosting soon. And it is also clearly evident that there is Gulf keenness to make this summit a success, despite many challenges.
These include the exceptional global circumstance due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its economic and financial implications, as well as the important change in the international scene.
Most recently, this has been represented by the presence of a new US administration, and the possibility of adjustments in US foreign policy towards the Gulf region, and the Middle East in general.
However, the tone of optimism for a successful Gulf summit during which the Qatar crisis with its Gulf neighbours will end, is almost fading out. This is due to Doha’s disregard for the virtual meeting attended by the Foreign Ministers of the other five Gulf States.
Instead, Qatar sent Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan Al-Muraikhi as its representative at the meeting, hosted by Manama. The meeting has witnessed an escalation in tension between Bahrain and its neighbour, Qatar, due to recent harassment against the former, especially in GCC waters.
Besides this, media campaigns against the Arab Quartet launched by the Al-Jazeera channel, which is owned by Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, did not end, but rather increased.
The contradictory Qatari behaviour can only be explained as an attempt to achieve a reconciliation that does not harm its distinguished relations either with Iran or Turkey. Qatar considers both countries as strategic allies in the face of the Egyptian and Saudi powers.
Consequently, the message that Qatar is seeking to confirm now is that Doha will return to the fold among Arab countries only as a major player, and an essential and influential party in the Gulf entity.
In fact, Qatar believes that it is a country with ambitions that cannot be waived to ensure the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) survives, which is outdated, according to the Qatari viewpoint. This Qatari stance throws the ball into the Arab court to deal with the Qataris with this new face.
On 5 January, GCC leaders will meet in Saudi Arabia, and the presence of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will be a positive sign. However, existing data needs to be considered, the most important of which is the Qatari media policy towards its Gulf neighbours, alongside the country’s intention to reduce its representation at the meeting of GCC foreign ministers.
Because of this, the Qatari-Gulf reconciliation seems just a distant dream. It may turn out to be mere temporary appeasement of the Arab dispute, depending on the consequences of regional as well as international changes.
I think that the extraordinary Gulf summit, in which President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was invited, will determine how to deal with Qatar during the coming period, with its ambitions that do not match its very modest capabilities.
It is inconceivable that a very small country, like Qatar, in which the number of expatriates far exceeds the population and has only some natural gas, can lead regional politics in the Middle East region.
The Middle East is teeming with countries that possess history, geographic features, population diversity, economic, military, and political capabilities that cannot be compared to the State of Qatar, that submerged state whose area does not exceed a small village.
Most importantly, there is also no real political presence of the State of Qatar in actual political life, because Qatar does not deal at the political level except through Al-Jazeera.