Leonid Isaev: ''Qatar together with Iran and Russia are main lobbyists for creation of a gas OPEC…''
Expert in Near East told about the causes of the quarrel of Qatar with Arab neighbours and its consequences
The world media told on 5 June morning that Bahrein, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Doha's support for terrorism and interference into affairs of sovereign states were the cause. Later Yemen and Lebanon joined the four countries. Oil rates have already reacted to the situation by a rise in black gold prices. Meanwhile, political scientist and expert in Arab studies Leonid Isaev is convinced the conflict is going to be resolved soon and we should not wait for aggravation. The expert told a reporter of Realnoe Vremya how the process will affect the relations with Moscow, football championship and Doha's trump card.
Who funds terrorism
Leonid, does Qatar really fund terrorism as Bahrein claimed? What are the real causes of the boycott of the six countries?
It doesn't fund terrorism. In general, I think no country in the world funds terrorism. We can accuse certain people, organisations of supporting terrorist bodies, but not states. In addition, Qatar is accused of ties with such structures that are enemies to each other: Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State (Editor's Note: an organisation banned in Russia). How can it fund them at once? I think it is silly. It is just a reason, of course. This is why the real problem is that in the last years Qatar has run an independent policy that started to contradict the policy ran by Riyadh in key issues. From this perspective, they want to cut Qatar down to size. And the sense of this cut of diplomatic relations is to show Qatar its place and made follow certain subordination existing in the Arab world, on the Arabian Peninsula, so that Qatar will run its foreign policy according to the foreign policy of its allies within the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC).
Isn't it strange to hear such reproaches that they support terrorists from Saudi Arabia or Emirates who are also often accused of such a ''sin''?
It is, of course. Both Emirates and the Kingdom (Editor's Note: Saudi Arabia) can be accused of secret negotiations with Israel. Qatar's neighbours also have negotiations with Iran. The Qatari participation in financing of some rebellion structures in Syria, Iraq is not less than the participation of very Saudi Arabia or the UAE. This is why the contribution of other Persian Gulf countries to these feuds taking place in the Arab world is not fewer. You are right, to accuse Qatar of ties with these structures is at least silly from a perspective of Saudi Arabia and Emirates.
''The Qatari participation in financing of some rebellion structures in Syria, Iraq is not less than the participation of very Saudi Arabia or the UAE. This is why the contribution of other Persian Gulf countries to these feuds taking place in the Arab world is not fewer.'' Photo: gosnovosti.com
Isn't this diplomatic conflict an attempt to drive the rival from the hydrocarbon sales market?
There are certain conflicts of interests here as well. Qatar together with Iran and Russia are main lobbyists for creation of a gas OPEC opposed by both the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. What is more, Qatar and Iran divided the main gas field in the Persian Gulf between each other – it has the biggest gas reserves. This is why there is also a kind of desire to take part in it. There is certain economic rationale. But, anyway, I think the main reasons are political — the Muslim Brotherhood (Editor's Note: an organisation banned in Russia) and Iran.
Cut Qatar down to size
As far as we know, the World Football Cup is to take place in Qatar in 2022. Won't this conflict affect the preparation for the WC?
I think the sides will reach a compromise in the nearest future. Moreover, till the world cup. Anyway, ambassadors were also revoked from Doha 2-3 years ago. They managed to reach a compromise but did not solve the problem…
Having shown Doha its place?
Yes, it was shown its place. It left this place. And now it is probably going to be cut down to size. It is clear the future of Qatar lies with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. There is not any future in the alliance of Qatar with Iran. And Saudi Arabia sets a goal not to repulse Qatar but, on the contrary, to get closer with Qatar like the United Arabic Emirates. Both sides are interested in better relations. They will reach a compromise. The question is that what will be the deal.
Why was the USA first to worry about this conflict? Can Trump be behind it all?
Trump is not behind it. Anyway, America supports its lasting allies with all the countries of the Arabian six-nation group. And extra quarrels in the team of key allies are not needed, of course. The United States of America is interested in the performance of the whole Arabian six-nation group as one bloc on key issues of the Near Eastern policy. This why the United States is going to push Qatar and Arabian countries to reach a compromise as soon as they can.
''This conflict doesn't play any role for us besides such situational oil price rises. We are having better relations with Riyadh, quite good relations with Doha. We are not interested in this conflict.'' Photo: cursorinfo.co.il
Leonid, we have seen oil prices have risen due to these events. Is this situation beneficial for Russia?
Depending on a situation, it is maybe beneficial. When the situation stabilises, the prices will also maybe stabilise. This conflict doesn't play any role for us besides such situational oil price rises. We are having better relations with Riyadh, quite good relations with Doha. We are not interested in this conflict. This is why we need to take a neutral position. And we are interested in the development of relations with both sides.
House of Thani's trump card
What is the role of Qatar in the Arab or Islamic world?
It is the richest country in the world. Its influence in the region has grown a lot in recent time. Qatar actively participates in different discussions on problems in the region, including the Syrian crisis. Undoubtedly, Qatar's influence has increased in recent years, of course, especially since 2011. Now it is a country that makes consider its interests. Somebody likes it, somebody dislikes.
How does Qatar participate in conflicts in Near East? Does it send its military contingents to Iraq, Syria, Yemen?
It sends something formally. One of the results of the conflict was that Saudi Arabia announced it stopped to count on the Qatari contingent in Yemen. But it all is symbolic participation. We need to understand that Qatar actively participates from a financial perspective. And the participation of Qatari forces is minimum. Due to certain geographic peculiarities, Qatar just doesn't have a possibility to maintain a big army and send forces outside its own country.
''Al Jazeera is a very powerful tool of the House of Thani, a very popular channel worldwide. In addition, it is very professional. Of course, now Qatar is going to lobby its positions by Al Jazeera.'' Photo: bbc.com
Al Jazeera's office is in Qatar. Is this TV channel a real tool in the hands of Doha?
It is very influential. If we look at what Al Jazeera says, you will see that it is anti-Emirate and anti-Saudi rhetoric. For instance, Al Jazeera accuses the ambassador of Emirates to Washington of acting according to the Israeli order. The TV channel accuses the Emirates of all the sins. The latter, in turn, accused Emirates in Doha that it ran a disruptive campaign ordered by Israel. Al Jazeera is a very powerful tool of the House of Thani, a very popular channel worldwide. In addition, it is very professional. Of course, now Qatar is going to lobby its positions by Al Jazeera.
It should be said that Saudi Arabia and the Emirates don't have such a tool. There is Al Arabia, which is also popular stuff like a channel. But Al Jazeera is one step forward. It is one of the top world channels. It can compete with BBC in some respect.
Emirates and KSA watch it. It is not blocked. Do people continue watching it?
Al Jazeera is watched worldwide. It broadcasts in both Arabic and English. In addition, Al Jazeera was a channel that was broadcasted in English in Fiji for 24 hours a day when I was there on my wedding trip. It is in the Pacific Ocean – nobody has ever heard of ISIS. Even our country watches the TV channel.