A Saudi-led coalition against accused Qatar of financing terrorism, creating a crisis in the Gulf and a long-lasting blockade to Qatar. How is the country now? What is it going to happen? Professor Baabood, one of the best experts in the Gulf, offers his assessment of the situation:
How do you see the situation in Qatar now after one year and a half of the Saudi blockade against Qatar, accusing them of funding terrorism?
Qatar came very clean on this past year and a half of blockade, offering Saudi Arabia to sit down with the international community and trying to explain the Saudis and the world the situation and figure out a way to solve it. They refused. The US has shown its appreciation for the dialogue but demonstrating a severe attitude in the beginning of the crisis and also accusing Qatar of terrorism. Progressively, Qatar came up with more actions to show the world that these accusations were wrong and false.
Qatar has succeeded on this situation. I think the whole crisis was and is totally unnecessary. There was no reason to accuse Qatar of terrorism, and it's kind of strange to accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism now. Which is different to say that many countries in the region have supported one group or another over the years and or in certain periods of time. I think the accusation of terrorism is a wrong pretext. Then, the other reason to start the blockade, according to Saudi Arabia, is that Qatar is having a good relation with Iran. This is also wrong.
The crisis is not only due to two reasons, it is much more complicated than that and it is based on the power in the region as well: the control of the Gulf and the balance Saudi Arabia-Iran for the control of the Middle East.
At the same time, the country is building its own resilience to stop and prevent other countries like Saudi to bully them. They don't want to be bullied and they don't want to become a vassal state, their goal is to become independent.
When it comes to Foreign policy, Qataris see things differently, perhaps these different opinions and differing orientations are not necessarily bad for the region. Sometimes it's good, because you don't need the same voice and the same opinion about things, keeping the diversity. This is maybe one of the reasons that it is keeping the region together. Foreign policy it is very different in all the GCC countries, the strategic calculations of Qatar, Kuwait and Oman are very different from those in Saudi Arabia.
You can't get every country to submit to the Saudi position and the Saudi view and this is what Qatar is trying to do and I believe they are doing a great job.
Qatar had basically outmaneuvered, because in the end they have a strong case and the others don't. Other GCC countries have made a lot of mistakes in terms of how they handle the situation. Qatar has been very clever. Taking the high moral ground on how to deal with this in terms of human suffering because of the crisis. They've done very well in terms of that. They have associated with their policies, open for people who want to see any accusations about supporting terrorist groups. Qatar has been very active on the diplomatic front as well as building their economy and trying to rely on themselves.
What the other GCC countries have done is basically the most important issue: Structure. Structure to guarantee security which is the Gulf Cooperation Council, helping all the countries in the region to work together.
Is the crisis coming to an end? And if yes, when?
I don't believe this crisis is going to get to an end soon.
The only tangible results are that we're going to have more insecurity and stability in the region, helping terrorist groups succeed, finding power vacuums to operate.
Is Saudi going to come up with something new against Qatar?
I think they have tried everything. There is nothing else they can do at this point and the international community is telling them 'enough is enough. You cannot bully people like this'. They can not take advantage of it anymore.
The US is showing Saudi Arabia that this position is not positive for them and the stability of the region itself.
On the other side, the United States needs all the countries in the region to work together and they want the GCC countries to be a coherent organisation, united and stable, being able to cooperate with all the countries in the region.
Professor Abdullah Baabood, originally from Oman, has been Director to the Gulf Studies Program of Qatar University in Doha. He is one of the best experts of the Gulf region nowadays.