Qatar says list of demands by Arab states not realistic

An aerial view of high-rise buildings emerging through fog covering the skyline of Doha, as the sun rises over the city, in Doha, Qatar, 15 February 2014Image copyrightEPA
Image captionQatar, which is rich in natural gas, is home to 2.7 million people

Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected a list of 13 conditions set by four Arab states for lifting sanctions, saying it is neither reasonable nor actionable.

Qatar is under strict sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. They accuse Qatar of backing terrorism.

Among other things, they have demanded the closure of Al Jazeera TV, which is funded by the Qatari government.

The UAE’s foreign minister has suggested they may cut ties completely.

But Anwar Gargash added that the countries were not seeking to overthrow the Qatari leadership, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Qatar has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions for more than two weeks, with Iran and Turkey increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.

It denies accusations that it is funding terrorism and fostering regional instability.

The four countries also want Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base, setting a deadline on Friday of 10 days.

What has Qatar’s government said?

The government is reviewing the demands, a spokesman has said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, quoted by Al-Jazeera, said: “The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable’.

“The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic.’ This list does not satisfy that [sic] criteria.”

Media captionGiles Trendle of Al Jazeera: “We’re not partisan to any particular group or ideology or government”

He said the demands were proof that the sanctions had “nothing to do with combating terrorism… [but] limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy”.

Al Jazeera accused them of trying to silence freedom of expression, adding: “We assert our right to practise our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority.”

What effect are sanctions having?

Qatar’s main import routes – by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from container ships docked in the UAE – have been disrupted, and much of the surrounding airspace has been closed to its air traffic.

Map showing Qatar and other Gulf states

However, the small but wealthy country has so far avoided economic collapse by finding alternative routes.

Qatari citizens living in neighbouring countries or with family living there have been hit harder, Reuters news agency notes, because of ultimatums issued for them to leave.

What happens if the demands are not met?

The UAE’s foreign minister said there would be a “parting of ways” with Qatar if it failed to meet them.

“The alternative is not escalation,” he said. “The alternative is parting of ways. 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.”

He described Qatar as a “Trojan horse” within the group of Arab monarchies.

Where is the US in this?

Correspondents say there has been frustration in Washington over the time taken by the Saudis and others to formalise their demands.

Media captionThe disruption could have an impact on Qatar if the dispute drags on

US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Qatar, accusing it of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.

However, the Arab states involved in the crisis are all close allies of the US, while the largest US base in the Middle East is in Qatar.

US seeks to ‘milk’ terrorism sponsor Saudi Arabia – Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to RT

As the US influence in the Middle East wanes, it increasingly associates itself with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, whose “dark face” and “role in supporting terrorism is known to everyone in the region,” a high ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guard official told RT.

The United States and President Trump in particular consider only one “dimension” of convergence with Saudi Arabia, ignoring the “ideological and intellectual” challenges and costs such ties entail, media adviser to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Commander-in-Chief Hamid Reza Moghadam Far told RT in an exclusive interview.

“That was one of Trump’s senseless moves. He was just seeking to milk this cow and thinking about only business,” Moghadam Far said.

“The first challenge is that Trump goes to such a country as his first trip after being elected… That is the behavior shown towards a dictatorial regime in which democracy is meaningless and no elections take place and the people have no presence on the scene. The next challenge is that they claim that they are combatting terrorism. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has provided the most support for terrorism.”

The recent naming of Mohammed bin Salman as Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince might be another “outcome of Trump’s visit” amidst internal disputes among Saudi princes and with other Arab countries.

“This replacement is one of the internal political impacts of the [Trump’s] visit on Saudi Arabia. I mean the replacement of the crown prince. But Saudi Arabia is facing certain conditions today that I think the development would create further problems for the country,” Moghadam Far said, pointing out that this decision would hardly be beneficial for the Saudi people.

While the appointment might push Saudi Arabia into further radicalization, it would unlikely lead to an armed conflict with Iran, Moghadam Far believes, as the Saudi army is “not fit for military action.”

“There is no possibly of conflict. Today many Arab countries are complaining about Saudi Arabia’s inexperienced and radical moves. They consider Saudi Arabia as callow,” Moghadam Far told RT.

“A number of inexperienced people who are ruling Saudi Arabia lack the resolve and determination to initiate a war on Iran. They lack the courage and power. I do not think they will come up with such conclusion, even if all global powers support them.”

Saudi Arabia’s policies in the Middle East only bring instability to the region and its alliance with the US only diminishes the already dwindling American power and influence, Moghadam Far believes.

“[The US policies] definitely have a negative effect. What matters more, however, is that the US is not as influential a player as it used to be and it can no longer manipulate regional equations. Today, it does not enjoy such a sway at all and its influence in the region has waned,” Moghadam Far said.

READ MORE: US stirring up ‘Iranophobia’ to boost arms sales to Arab nations – Tehran

“It now has to associate with countries like Saudi Arabia whose negative role in supporting terrorism, whose dictatorship, and whose dark face is known to everyone in the region.”

Tehran’s recent Iranian missile attack on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria should have weakened the resolve of the Saudis and other powers to go to war with Iran. A key “message” of the attack was to clearly demonstrate Iranian military capabilities to those who doubted them, Moghadam Far said.

“In the past, when these missiles were test-fired in Iran, the US and certain western countries used to usually announce that Iran was lying that its launches had been successful and tried to create this impression that Iranians do not have such a capability and their missiles cannot strike their targets with precision,” he said.

The strike also demonstrated Iran’s resolve to fight terrorism, rubbishing usual US accusations that Tehran supports terrorist elements.

“As in the past, whenever Americans want to mount pressure on Iran, impose new sanctions and proceed with an issue in the region and beyond, [the US] accuse Iran of backing terrorism,” Moghadam Far said.

“But I think that today’s conditions are such that the world’s public opinion does not accept this. The world has come to realize that the US, despite leading a coalition against [IS] and terrorism in Syria and Iraq, Syria in particular, does not fight terrorism in practice and is in fact is supporting it… They cannot both take an opposite stance against terrorism and accuse Iran.”

‘US should mind its own business; it shouldn’t be in Syria’ – Ron Paul

‘US should mind its own business; it shouldn’t be in Syria’ – Ron Paul
The US has no right to fly into Syrian airspace where it shouldn’t be and set boundaries but should mind its own business. Otherwise, it is an act of aggression, says former US Congressman Ron Paul.

The US fighter jet downed an armed drone belonging to pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria, near a base in the al-Tanf region, on June, 20 as the drone was advancing on US-backed forces, according to a coalition statement.

This is happening at a time of escalating tension between Moscow and Washington. Also on Tuesday, Australia said it is temporarily suspending air operations in Syria.

RT discussed the latest developments in Syria with former US Congressman Ron Paul.

RT: Australia halted its cooperation. How significant is this development? Why did they do it?

Ron Paul: I think that is good. Maybe wise enough, I wish we could do the same thing – just come home. It just makes no sense; there’s a mess over there. So many people are involved, the neighborhood ought to take care of it, and we have gone too far away from our home. It has been going on for too long, and it all started when Obama in 2011 said: “Assad has to go.” And now as the conditions deteriorate …it looks like Assad and his allies are winning, and the US don’t want them to take Raqqa. This just goes on and on. I think it is really still the same thing that Obama set up – “Get rid of Assad” and there is a lot of frustration because Assad is still around and now it is getting very dangerous, it is dangerous on both sides. One thing that I am concerned about – because I’ve seen it happen so often over the years are false flags. Some accidents happen. Even if it is an honest accident or it is deliberate by one side or the other to blame somebody. And before they stop and think about it, then there is more escalation. When our planes are flying over there and into airspace where we shouldn’t be, and we are setting up boundaries and say “don’t cross these lines or you will be crossing our territory.” We have no right to do this. We should mind our own business; we shouldn’t be over there, when we go over there and decide that we are going to take over, it is an act of aggression, and I am positively opposed to that. And I think most Americans are too if they get all the information they need.

RT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that he wanted to ask his American counterpart why the US-led coalition isn’t targeting Al-Nusra in Syria. What sort of answer do you think he’ll get?

RP: I think it will be wishy-washy. He’ll probably think it is in their interests not to do anything to damage the radicals, the extremists, the rebels because I think that our government thinks that they could be helpful in undermining Assad. I don’t think they are going to say “Yeah, they are our buddies now, we consult with them all the time.” It won’t be that. They’ll argue “We have to help the Kurds out” or something along those lines and make excuses. I think that there’s a net benefit to the radicals for us to get involved there and it is not helpful in the long run for our position which ought to try to bring about peace.

The propaganda the American people hear is such that they get them pretty excited about it, but I am very confident that if the American people had more information…because when I talk to them, they side with my arguments. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be doing what we are doing, and that’s why I persist in trying to get to the facts but trying to eliminate the danger, try to obey international law, try to do the things that are in our best interest. And if we are talking about America’s interest – it isn’t helped by our policy in the Middle East for the last 15-20 years, I think it has all been negative.

Richard Black, Republican member of Virginia State Senate, told RT that “the US and the coalition are in Syria without any permission, without any lawful authority to be present”.

“Some members of the coalition may say “We are in clear violation of international law, maybe this is not right.” Others bought into this coalition to be part of a group fighting ISIS, and now they are saying “Wait a minute. We didn’t go into Syria to fight the legitimate duly elected government of Syria; we went there to fight this terrorist organization.”…The coalition is certainly not there to help the Syrian people; it is there to help Saudi Arabia with its Wahhabi radical Islamic domination of the entire world beginning with the countries close to it”.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman names son as new crown prince

Mohammed bin Salman has been appointed Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince and next in line for the throne. Bin Salman is viewed as a keen reformer, set on building an economic future for the kingdom after oil.

Mohammed bin Salman (picture alliance/AP Photo/H. Ammar)

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman has replaced his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince – next in line to the throne – in a royal decree issued via the Saudi kingdom’s state media agency SPA on Wednesday.

While bin Salman’s promotion and bin Nayef’s ouster were reportedly widely expected within royal circles, the timing is surprising. Saudi Arabia finds itself in a bitter diplomatic dispute with Qatar and Iran, and locked in a two-year-long air war in Yemen.

Read more: Saudi Arabia and allies release Qatar ‘terror list’

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is King Salman’s nephew, was widely praised for his role as Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism chief and for suppressing an al-Qaida bombing campaign against the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. Nevertheless, he was relieved of all his roles.

Watch video01:52

Saudi Arabian issues

Bin Salman, meanwhile, will maintain his position as defense minister, holding responsibility for one of the world’s biggest arms budgets as well as the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen.

A public pledging of loyalty for him is scheduled to take place later on Wednesday.

New leader for a new generation

Mohammed bin Salman’s ascent to being one step away from the throne was seen as symbolic recognition on behalf of the king to Saudi Arabia’s youthful population, more than half of which is under 25 years old.

The newly appointed 31-year-old crown prince will be the first of a new generation of Saudi royals to take power. He is the great-grandchild of the kingdom’s founder, the late King Abdul-Aziz.

Bin Salman was one of the most ardent proponents for the kingdom’s Vision 2030 program, a wide-ranging plan to introduce social and economic reforms to the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy. As part of the plan, Saudi Arabia cut back of many state lavish subsidies and proposed the partial privatization of the kingdom’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco.

Watch video02:17

Saudi Arabia reforms its economy amid oil price slump

While the proposals to rid Saudi Arabia of its “addiction” to oil have prompted unease many senior officials, they have been widely welcomed by younger Saudis.

Read more: Saudi Arabia to become ‘softer’ nation?

Bin Salman also chaired the country’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs, coordinating socio-economic policies in the kingdom such as education, housing, and women’s rights. However, it remains unclear where he stands on the Saudi kingdom’s harsh freedom of speech laws. He also heads the supreme board of Saudi Aramco.

However, his rise to power has been rapid since his father assumed the throne in January 2015. Many have scrutinized the king’s decision to brush aside many of his more well-known, and sometimes better qualified, cousins in favor of closer relatives.

Watch video01:29

Future billions for Saudi Arabia

dm/sms (AP, AFP, Rueters, dpa)

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Opinion: The USA stands by Qatar

The USA has signed a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Qatar, which is enmired in a diplomatic spat in the Persian Gulf. The two nations are also holding joint military maneuvers: a strong signal, says Christian Meier.

Riad Treffen Donald Trump Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani Emir Katar (Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan)

Rarely has the arrival of a foreign military power been so yearned for in Qatar. On Wednesday, two US warships sailed into Port Hamad, south of the capital, Doha. The ships are in Qatar to conduct joint military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf with the emirate’s navy. The maneuvers have been planned for a while, as was the $12 billion (10.7 billion euros) purchase of American F-15 fighter jets – which was also announced Wednesday in Washington, DC. The timing of both events, however, sends a very clear signal: America is standing by its ally Qatar’s side during the largest diplomatic crisis the Gulf region has seen in years.

Exactly what the US stance on the matter would be was an open question just a few days ago. Two weeks ago, a number of Arab states – led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – surprised the world by severing diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing all transport links to the country. They accused Qatar of supporting terror groups and collaborating with Iran to undermine stability in the region. Qatar does indeed have a rather dubious past in that regard. The tiny emirate, made exceedingly rich by its natural-gas deposits, explicitly fostered Islamist groups in Arab states during the so-called Arab Spring. It also harbored a number of leaders from the Palestinian terror organization Hamas, as well as controversial characters such as the Egyptian religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered by many to be the guiding spirit of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Read: Germany calls for diplomacy to resolve Qatar standoff, turns down mediator role

Meager progress in the fight against terror financing

 FAZ-Redakteur Christian Meier (F.A.Z/Wolfgang Eilmes)Christian Meier from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

But that has all been known for some time. And the US government recently attested that Doha had been making progress – however modest – in the fight against terror financing. This makes it look as if Qatar’s neighbors took such drastic action for another reason altogether: Qatar’s idiosyncratic foreign policy has been irritating Saudi Arabia and the UAE for years. They are also perturbed by the fact that Qatar has maintained open relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s adversary in the region. Speaking in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, one month ago, US President Donald Trump was energetic in warning about fighting terror financing, while at the same time singling out the Shiite government in Tehran as terror sponsor. Apparently, several Arab states interpreted this as a signal that the moment had come to cut Qatar down to size.

Read: Trump calls for global coalition against terrorism, ‘isolation’ of Iran

Is that what Trump had in mind? Contradictory signals emanated from Washington in the aftermath of the announcement: Referring to the Qatar boycott, the president tweeted that he was happy to see that his trip was “paying off.” At the same time, representatives from his administration were busy emphasizing Qatar’s strategic importance for US security interests. Qatar is home to the United States’ largest military base in the Middle East. Operations against the terror group “Islamic State” (IS) are coordinated at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. It seems that for the time being, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have been able to convince President Trump that Qatar is simply too important for America to let fall. Behind the scenes, the Americans will no doubt maintain pressure on Doha – and so they should. But the US would be wise to avoid getting duped into assisting one side or the other in the power struggles being played out among the Gulf states.

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Qatar foreign minister says ‘no one has the right’ to dictate its foreign policy

Qatar’s foreign minister has said that his country welcomes efforts to calm the current Gulf diplomatic crisis. However, Qatar’s foreign policy is not up for debate.

Frankreich Außenminister Katars Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (picture-alliance/AP Photo/N. Garriga)

While in Paris on Monday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani decried the sanctions against Doha by several Gulf countries, but said his country was open to diplomatic efforts to calm the situation.

“Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security,” Sheikh Mohammed told a news conference in Paris following diplomatic meetings.

He called for “dialogue based on clear foundations” over accusations from Saudi Arabia and its allies that Doha supports extremist groups. The minister also said that Qatar supports Kuwait’s mediation efforts.

Read more: Why Turkey is standing behind Qatar in the Gulf crisis

The foreign minister said that although Qatar was open to dialogue, its foreign policy would not be up for debate in any talks.

“Whatever relates to our foreign affairs… no one has the right to discuss,” Sheikh Mohammed said. He also said that no one could pressure Qatar to silence the TV network Al Jazeera based in Doha.

“It’s not about Iran or Al Jazeera,” he said, referring to the Doha-based broadcaster. “We have no clue about the real reasons.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera English on Monday, Qatar’s economy minister said that despite the tensions, the small Gulf state would be able to maintain a high standard of living for its residents.

Read more: Pakistan faces a diplomatic conundrum over the Gulf crisis

Economy Minister Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani told the Qatar-funded channel that the country had a one-year reserve of materials for major construction projects – including the building of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

Both the foreign and economy ministers of Qatar are members of the Qatari royal family under Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s absolute monarchy, which is yet to realize reforms dating back to 2003 aiming to adopt a constitutional monarchy in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar last week, citing the country’s alleged support for extremists. The same four countries also gave Qatari nationals two weeks to leave their territory.

rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Watch video01:36

Qatari foreign minister visits Berlin

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Why Turkey is standing behind Qatar in the Gulf crisis

From the start of the Gulf crisis Turkey has backed the leadership in Doha, sending a clear signal to Saudi Arabia that Qatar is not alone. DW spoke with Turkish academic Serhat Erkmen about Ankara’s role in the dispute.

Emir Tamim von Qatar und Erdogan (Picture alliance/dpa/Turkish President Press Office)

DW: For many Middle East observers, countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt are regarded as status quo powers, whereas Iran and to an extent Turkey and Qatar are considered revisionist ones. Do you think the current rapprochement between Ankara and Doha in the aftermath of the Gulf crisis is the reflection of a status quo versus revisionist power struggle in the region?

Serhat Erkmen: Yes, the balance of power is still missing in the Middle East following the Arab Spring. We are witnessing multiple ongoing civil wars in the region. And those civil wars are not concluding in the way the regional powers would like to see. Saudi Arabia and Iran are not getting what they want, and Syria is in a mess. If you look at the prominent powers in the region, neither of them can declare victory [in those civil wars].

Moreover, as the conflicts and the power imbalance persist, the economic and political costs rise for all the countries in the region. Once the costs reach a boiling point … these countries could go as far as declaring war against each other or find reconciliation in contested areas. But the reality is that none of the Middle Eastern powers are capable of overcoming the current problems on the ground. That’s why they are getting help from countries of critical importance such as the United States, Russia and some European powers.

Therefore, both regional and external powers have engaged in a power struggle in the Middle East and I think we should view the Qatar issue through that lens. The problem is not limited to Qatar.

Karte Countries that severed ties with Qatar ENG

Relations between Qatar and Turkey have been on a positive trend over the past decade. The two countries have shared investments and signed military training deals. Do you think Turkey’s support for Qatar in the current crisis stems from this cordial relationship or has the government in Ankara made a calculated policy choice?

Although Turkey and Qatar’s friendly ties are obvious, when the foreign direct investment to Turkey is considered, the UAE has the highest share among the countries in the region. And Turkey is standing against the UAE, which belongs to the anti-Qatar Saudi camp in the ongoing crisis. It is true that Qatar has been investing in Turkey heavily and has the potential to invest more, but the economic relations cannot explain Turkey’s support to Qatar on their own.

If you look at Turkey and Qatar’s Syria policy and their cooperation in the war-torn country, if you consider their stance on the situation in Egypt after the country’s 2013 coup, their support for each other should be evaluated from the perspective of regional political calculations rather than a mere economic reading.

Should Qatar be taken out of the picture when it comes to regional matters, it could isolate Turkey. And perhaps this is why Turkey does not want to lose Qatar.

Katar Lebensmittel Blockade (Getty Images/AFP)The sudden diplomatic isolation sparked long supermarket lines in Qatar, which relies heavily on Saudi food imports

Until the recent row between Qatar and the Saudi camp, political nuances in the Gulf were not apparent for an ordinary Turkish observer. What do you think are the effects of this crisis on the perception of the Gulf region in Turkey?

The perception of the Gulf region in Turkey has traditionally been monolithic. With the recent developments, I think this simplistic approach will no longer be the case. If you look at social media posts or pay attention to opinion leaders’ comments on the Gulf rift, there is now more of an emphasis on the nuances of different policy preferences among the states in the region.

Do you think by fast-tracking the troop deployment agreement for training missions that was signed in 2014, Turkey is sending a defiant message to Saudi Arabia and the UAE?

Turkey is not only sending a message to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it is also flexing its muscles to all the countries that could potentially express hostility towards Qatar. The military deal between Turkey and Qatar involves a training scheme, but the way that the agreement has been presented to the international community is a clear sign of support for Qatar. I think this is a loud and clear message. This support implies, “If you are looking into ways to put pressure on Qatar other than diplomatic means, know that they are not alone.” And I think this message is received by the other parties.

Serhat Erkmen works at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, where he heads Middle East and Africa Studies. Erkmen also lectures at the Ahi Evran University in Kirsehir.

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