Qatar is the real loser in the current crisis

No matter how much its government tries to repair its image by recruiting more public relations firms in Washington, it won't succeed this time.

By Abdulrahman Al Rashed (Perspective)

Published: Thu 27 Jul 2017, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jul 2017, 11:19 PM

Qatar crisis isn't a passing summer cloud, as some had thought it to be. There is little doubt that the crisis is far from getting resolved anytime soon. The failure of mediation efforts and meetings of foreign ministers have so far led the four states to stick to their demands.
Why do we expect the crisis to prolong? It is because complaints against Doha have been compounding for almost 20 years.
The statement issued by the four states at the beginning of June represents a new development - it is the first confrontation and the most serious one. This was clearly expressed by cutting diplomatic and consular ties and prohibiting transit and traffic. From that day on, confrontation has been escalating and the speech of the Emir of Qatar, a few days ago, further intensified the situation rather than bridging the gap. For this reason, the crisis will probably last for months.
So far, who has won and who has lost? I think states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia remain largely unaffected. These states have had their share of hostile media campaigns. Qatar, however, had largely remained immune. It is an affluent state that was attacked by extremist groups such as Al Qaeda only once in the nineties. It doesn't have a large population density or religious and cultural diversity, unlike Bahrain. It is on the safe side with two US military bases protecting it.
Interestingly, Qatar has two images: a real negative one similar to other Arab states and a fake media one that portrays it as a modern, positive, young and moderate state, enjoying freedom and independence from foreign pressures.
Few people are aware that Qatar's image is fake, or at least exaggerated.
The current crisis has exposed the truth. Doha is the damaged party. For the first time, Qatar's name is attached to terrorism and extremist intellect.
No matter how much its government tries to repair its image by recruiting more public relations firms in Washington, it won't succeed this time. As for Qatari media efforts, they mainly focus on consumed and repeated messages that governments are used to.
In the Arab region, the tactics employed by Qatar were outdated. These included exploitation of the Palestinian cause and linking it to the crisis. But such attempts have failed. Its propaganda mill has also tried to convince citizens that their governments are biased and false. However, Qatar has found little sympathy as its hired commentators, preachers, and academics stand exposed. The control exercised by the four states has undermined the Qatari government's investment in such people.
It is not a matter of freedom of speech as much as standing against lobbies and public relations illegally recruited by a foreign government - majority of regimes prohibit receiving funds from foreign governments for sponsoring political activities.
Eventually, the crisis will come to an end, maybe next year or later, we can't determine when and how.
Qatar is under political pressure in the region and will reach a deadlock because the four states, along with the majority of the region, can no longer bear such an attitude and damage caused by the Qatari government.
Most of the region's governments consider Doha as a jeopardising force to their stability. Therefore, targeting Qatar is legitimate and necessary. Will Doha be able to bear the risks and consequences of its policies?
The continuation of the crisis and the rejection of mediation and pressure are all indicators that Qatar is playing a dangerous game. It has a choice to make - let go of its policy or risk existence.
-Ashram Al Awsat
Abdulrahman Al Rashed is a senior journalist based in Dubai

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