People look at pigeons at the Souq Waqif market in Doha, Qatar.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An ultimatum issued by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to Qatar that it drop support for terrorists and meet a list of 13 demands toward that end is nearing its expiry amid a torrent of threats against Doha in the Saudi media.
The threats raise the possibility of fresh steps against Qatar to follow up a boycott and the severing of diplomatic relations by the four allies on June 5.
The ultimatum was issued on June 23 and expires on Sunday. Among its demands are that Qatar close Al Jazeera television; curb ties with Iran; close a Turkish military base; and hand over designated terrorists to the allies.
A writer in the Saudi daily Okaz, Muhammad al-Sultan, warned on Saturday that “Qatar should realize it is only one drop in the sea of Saudi politics, which is deep, profound and roaring. Riyadh and its sisters in Abu Dhabi, Manama and Cairo are serious this time about putting an end to the strife and the games of the petty. Qatar, which benefited from the patience of Riyadh, should understand that the anger of Riyadh will be very painful such that a small emirate can’t bear it.”
Qatar could face ouster from the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to Gulf diplomats quoted in the Saudi owned, London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily. The UAE ambassador to Moscow, Omar Ghobash, was quoted by The Guardian as saying the allies could force their trading partners to choose between working with them or Doha.
“There are certain economic sanctions that we can take which are being considered right now,” Ghobash said.
But Sultan went so far as to imply that military force might be employed, using the word “storm” several times, which has echoes of the name being used for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen, Decisive Storm.
He wrote: “The consequences of this stage will reveal a coming storm according to which the Arab allies will punish Qatar painfully for what it has done and what it may do. Perhaps we will see liquidation of leaders and presenting them to the International Criminal Court for the conspiracies maliciously woven by the Qatar regime.”
Qatar denies it supports terrorism and says it is being targeted because it pursues policies independently of Riyadh.
Gulf nations cut ties with Qatar (credit: REUTERS)
Qatari Foreign Minister Muhammad Bin Abdul-Rahman al-Thani said over the weekend that his country is ready for dialogue, on condition of non-violation of its sovereignty, and termed as unacceptable the steps the allies are taking, Al Jazeera.net reported.
Writing in Asharq al-Awsat, that paper’s former editor, Salman al-Dossary, also adopted a threatening tone toward Qatar.
“When Doha wakes up and accepts a serious solution to the crisis, it will be too late and it will have suffered a loss too great for compensation. The billions of dollars in its sovereign fund will be of no use and the ‘money can buy you anything’ principle will not save it.”
He continued: “Serious damage has been inflicted to the system itself, and the only way to restore it is through a dangerous operation. The worst is yet to come, Qatar.”
Also writing in Asharq al-Awsat, leading commentator Abdulrahman al-Rashed called Qatar a “trapped cat.”
“Rather than dealing with its crisis and admitting it had become a serious and dangerous threat to everyone in the region, Doha resorted to its old tricks. To the Qatari cat, we say: Quit jumping off windows, the crisis has only one way out and that is through reaching an understanding with your neighbors.
“The four countries boycotting Qatar have 13 demands that share one goal: That the Qatar regime stop the damage it is creating for the region’s countries, which will resort to restraining the Doha regime if it continues to disagree.”
He added: “It seems that the [allied] countries have made up their minds not to remain silent over threats to their security and existence, thus reaching a point where Qatar will taste its own medicine.”