After coming under heavy criticism from the Yemeni government, Qatar has pulled out of a GCC initiative to mediate in the crisis in Yemen, citing “the continued escalation [and] intensity of the confrontations, and a lack of wisdom”.
The Yemeni government accused Qatar of “funding chaos” and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network of supporting the protests. The Yemeni government has also accused Qatar of “bribing their way” into winning the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Yemen’s charges were unsubstantiated.
The role of Qatar is also understood to have come under criticism from other GCC states. Al Jazeera, for example, decided to give front-page coverage of a New York Times report about the UAE hiring a former Blackwater official to help on security affairs. Qatar is also understood to be critical of Jordan joining the GCC, despite a recent visit by King Abdullah II of Jordan to Qatar.
May 12, 2011
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
A number of events over the past weeks indicate that the regional role Qatar has been seeking for itself is under immense threat. The fact that it has conceded to the demand of the Yemeni government and withdrew from mediation efforts is a blow to Qatari diplomacy. Qatar has in the past several years positioned itself as an independent broker on Yemen, and Doha sponsored the peace agreement between the government and the Houthi rebels. Qatar has been working very hard to have this apparently “neutral” position in the region as a whole, but recent events have undermined this.
Although unrelated, the fact that Al Jazeera decided to give the New York Times report about the UAE front-page coverage is highly significant. Al Jazeera is widely seen as an instrument of the Qatari state. Blackwater has a very negative image in the Arab World, and by translating the report into Arabic and making it available to the Arab World, Al Jazeera appeared to have wanted to embarrass the UAE. This indicates that Qatar’s relations with other GCC states are tense, thereby further undermining its regional position.
Also unrelated, is mounting pressure on FIFA to investigate corruption charges, as well as Yemeni accusations against Qatar of bribing their way to win the FIFA 2022 bid. With overall support for Qatar rapidly eroding, Qatar faces a serious challenge about its ability to host the FIFA bid. Qatar is understood to have made a breakthrough in convincing the FIFA committee to vote for it by saying that Qatar’s win is a win for the whole region. With a threat of its increasing isolation, there is an increasing risk that Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA 2022 bid may come under close scrutiny.
Qatar faces mounting criticism and a potential undermining of its image. Unless it addresses this effectively, economic ramifications are to be expected, as foreign investments are likely to seek other regional locations.