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This Qatar ultimatum is an outrage

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‘This note is clearly an ultimatum, but it is an ultimatum such as had never been penned in modern times.’ It is reported that Winston Churchill said this of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, and I feel like we can apply it to Saudi Arabia’s 13 Demands to Qatar, even if the two incidents are more than a century apart.

Reading through the 13 Demands, I get the feeling that they were meant to be rejected, and I am not alone in this opinion; The UK’s Boris Johnson has asked for ‘measured and realistic’ demands, while his American counterpart has spoken of ‘reasonable and actionable’ demands.

Such statements from established democracies are to be expected, so I guess you only know that your edicts have crossed into ridiculous territory when they are criticized by an illiberal and increasingly autocratic republic.

That republic being Turkey, whose president Erdogan has blasted this whole blockade against Qatar as “against international laws”, those same international laws that don’t matter much in its ongoing war against the Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey, or in the post-coup purge, or in the aggressive campaign against Gulenist schools beyond Turkey (they have been seized or sold in Ethiopia and Tanzania).

The Saudi terms step far beyond reasonable because, implemented in full, they demand that Qatar accepts the suzerainty of Saudi Arabia, and as such, even a tinier, poorer, third world nation would reject them as a shameless attempt to coerce a sovereign nation.

What country would “consent to monthly audits for the first year” and then be monitored for the next 10 years? Would national pride allow such a thing, even if the government capitulates to it?

The edict also calls for Qatar to “pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other financial losses”; funny Saudi Arabia threw that line in, seeing as survivors and relatives of 9/11 (where 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi) are demanding the same of the Kingdom. The Kingdom doesn’t want to be tied up with such claims, yet expects the Emirate to accept this.

Qatar is also being instructed to shut down Al-Jazeera and other news outlets it funds; possible, but this being how Qatar manages to elevate itself out of the shadow of Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t seem like a decision it would quickly go with.

There are also three demands relating to terrorist figures/organizations but there is a problem with how everything has been conflated. ISIS and Al-Qaeda are terrorist organizations no doubt, but the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egypt has designated it as such but anyone who’s followed Egyptian matters knows that designation had nothing to do with the group being a terrorist organization, but the fact that Egyptian President Sisi had seized power in a coup from the Brotherhood’s Morsi and is using all heavy-handed means to crush the MB; consequently, these heavy-handed tactics are spawning more terrorists, as America’s disastrous wars in Iraq and Libya did.

To a point, the Muslim Brotherhood is Islamist like the Gulf monarchies, whose laws are based on puritanical interpretation of Sharia (which is why you can get amputated for theft in UAE, or, if you are a woman in Qatar or UAE, end up in jail for adultery after reporting a rape; Saudi Arabia is on another level, it being the only country in the world where women can’t drive).

The Muslim Brotherhood is anathema to the monarchies and autocratic leaderships of the Arab world because it advocates political Islam that is representative, while the Assads of Syria and the al-Sauds and al-Khalifa would prefer unquestioned dynastic successions.

Hezbollah has also been classified as a terrorist organization, but that’s a problematic grouping, because it’s not going around chopping heads and planting IEDs; it’s a political organization, it is a paramilitary unit, and it’s keeping the peace in South Lebanon. If it were anything like ISIS or al-Qaeda, wouldn’t its strongholds in South Lebanon be bombarded as much as we are seeing Mosul get hit?

Hezbollah’s biggest ‘problem’ is that it’s Shia, and receives support from Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main competitor for hegemony; it’s also fighting for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while Saudi Arabia (and Turkey) have in the past backed Jaysh al-Fatah, a coalition of Sunni Islamists that included Jabhat al-Nusra, aka Al-Qaeda in Syria.

It’s almost laughable seeing Saudi Arabia throw such accusations of terrorism at Qatar; it’s their textbooks that ISIS used for a while, and their revised editions are still full of hate for Shias and non-Muslims, and it’s the Wahhabi set of beliefs that is transforming peaceful Muslim countries like Kosovo into havens for jihadists.

That said, it’s not like Qatar is in the clear, and neither is Kuwait, which is mediating the current crisis; late last year, a leaked intelligence report in Germany claimed that charitable organizations linked to these three governments were actively supporting Salafism in the nation.

It’s like these demands were designed to be rejected, especially seeing as Qatar has been given only 10 days to comply. And who says that complying with most, but not all, of these demands will see Saudi Arabia ease its sanctions?

More than a century ago, faced with similar circumstances (they had 48 hours to comply), the Kingdom of Serbia acquiesced to all but one of the demands by the Austro-Hungarian Empire; this however didn’t appease the Empire, which declared war on tiny Serbia in July 1914.

They thought it was going to be over by December, but after four years of war, Austria-Hungary ceased to exist, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and the Kingdom of Serbia became the much larger kingdom of Yugoslavia.

It’s unlikely that Qatar will suddenly claim Saudi territory, but quite possible that the one’s imposing the blockade may come out looking a lot weaker, and it doesn’t help Saudi Arabia (and the UAE) that it’s waging a war in Yemen that it can’t decisively win.