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Understanding the Qatar crisis, a UAEU seminar discusses the current situation

adThe United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)’s Center for General Politics and Leadership held a seminar entitled ‘The Political, Economic and Media Reality and Prospects of the Qatar Crisis’ at the university’s Crescent Building in the presence of UAEU Vice Chancellor Professor Mohammed Albaili and university leaders and students.

The goal of the seminar was to raise students’ awareness and understanding of the Qatar situation and to dispel any notion of threat to national security of the UAE. A number of analysts and academics discussed the main reasons why the UAE, KSA, Bahrain and Egypt recently disassociated from Qatar.

Dr. Ateeq Jakka, director of UAEU Center for General Politics and Leadership, stated in his opening address that the region has witnessed a political, economic and media crisis stemming from Qatar’s policies. He explained that the boycott of Qatar by the quarter of counties came after much consideration and as a move to preserve the national security of each nation.

With evidence to suggest that Qatar has financially and politically supported extremist groups, he stated, “Qatar has spent tens of billions of dollars supporting extremist groups and this has created instability in the region.” Dr. Jakka highlighted that the quartet had attempted to dissuade Qatar from such decision making in the form of the Riyadh Agreement in 2013, and again in 2014, with the signing of the Complement Agreement. Unfortunately, the terms of these agreements were subsequently broken.

Dr. Ayed Al Mana, a Kuwaiti academic and political analyst, spoke about the root of the current Qatar crisis stating that it dates back to the 1995 coup after which, it is widely-accepted that Qatar began supporting extremist groups. 

Dr. Mana added that other countries in the region had attempted to dissuade Qatar from these policies, but that their results were in vain thus there was no alternative but to withdraw their respective ambassadors from Doha. In a bid to calm the situation, H.H. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, mediated and tried to bring about a return of the ambassadors, but this was unsuccessful.

Dr. Mana warned that there are some groups who could try to exploit the disassociation in order to weaken the GCC countries. He added that, in its isolation, Qatar would be most affected by such exploits.

Dr. Mohammed Bin Huwaiden, Head of the Political Science Department at UAEU, further explained the situation stating: “The boycott of Qatar by the four countries is a normal and sovereign decision that any other country might consider to maintain its security and stability. It is a right guaranteed under international law. Since the seventies, the GCC has not witnessed any Gulf country interfering in the affairs of another to destroy its political entity. What Qatar has been doing is not an act; it is rather a destruction of the national systems of countries.” He also stressed that the intransigence of Qatar suggests the country’s focus is not aimed at peace in the region.

Dr. Fatima Al Shamsi, Deputy Vice Chancellor for administration of Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, touched upon the economic aspect of the crisis. “[The boycott] has influenced all economic sectors of Qatar including tourism, commerce and banking. Approximately $30 billion has been withdrawn from the country’s banking system across June and July. Qatar’s telecom, commodity and finance sectors have witnessed a decrease of 26%, 32%, and 17% respectively in the past months. Industrial output in Qatar also fell by 22% in the second quarter of this year in comparison to last year. Furthermore, food and medicine import bills have increased tenfold since the beginning of the boycott and consumer price inflation has reached more than 4.7%.”

Sawsan Al Shaer, an influential Bahraini journalist and author, addressed the media aspect of the crisis, praising the efforts of the media in the UAE which has served to strengthen the national identity of the country via traditional and untraditional media outlets during this time. Al Shaer also stressed the positive effects of the crisis, namely the sense of unity and cooperation demonstrated by media in the UAE, KSA and Bahrain, the result of which has been to successfully quell long-existing inaccurate media narratives. 

Oct 1, 2017