Time Magazine: Saudi Arabia must realise it can't win feud with Qatar
July 26 2017 11:37 PM
Time Magazine article


The confrontation between Qatar and the four countries imposing a siege on it since June 5 "has hit a wall," Time Magazine said in an article.

"Absent a Washington surprise, the current measures against Qatar will not force Doha to cave," the report said, adding that efforts by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, supported by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, have partly offset US President Donald Trump's early support of Saudi Arabia and its friends.
"Closing air, sea and land access to Qatar caused only temporary pain" not only for Qataris but also for Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis.
"Qatar surprised observers and perhaps even its own people at the apparently seamless manner by which it found alternative routes and sources for everything it imports.
"Even if the crisis is soon resolved, most Qatari entities will prefer to make the new flows permanent rather than again become dependent on their neighbours. Similarly, Qatar's Central Bank found workarounds to counteract attempts by the UAE financial sector to disrupt Qatari riyal transactions. In short, all else remaining equal, Qatar should be able to sustain the new state of affairs indefinitely into the future," the report said.
The signing of an agreement between Qatar and the United States to fight terrorism financing put that particular ball into the neighbours' court. Qatar can reasonably insist the others sign the same agreements with the United States. Saudi Arabia will find that an impossible condition, if past performance is any indication, according to the article.
Reducing the 13-point ultimatum to six slightly vaguer demands does not appear to have fazed Doha, while world opinion remains mesmerised by the original impossible set of demands.
"The neighbours have few options to change Qatar's calculations. Direct military force would bring catastrophic consequences for all. Imposing a naval and air blockade would be as dangerous. It would run the risk of direct confrontation with Iran, not to speak of the disruption of vital natural gas deliveries worldwide."
The neighbours also have few economic options for turning the screws. Stopping existing imports of Qatari natural gas to the UAE and Egypt would hurt those countries, while Qatar Petroleum and its partners could easily find other markets. Withdrawing UAE and Saudi deposits from Qatari banks would hurt liquidity but only for a short time as Qatar Central Bank reserves can easily sustain the riyal peg without need to touch Qatar Investment Authority's foreign assets.
The full-throated smear campaign, launched by the new Saudi Arabian Public Relations Committee in the US has done more damage to the reputation of the siege countries than to that of Qatar, the article said.
The UAE, in the meantime, realising that depriving its citizens of televised international sports games was a dangerous step too far, quietly decided to allow beIN, the Al Jazeera-owned worldwide sports channel, back on air.
The leadership in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have boxed themselves in. Without a dramatic game-changer, this stand-off will persist into the indefinite future. However, Riyadh needs a solution. The attempts by the Saudi leadership to reform the country's economy created resentment among those who benefit from the existing system. The military adventure on Yemen has turned bad. Now the regime faces the potential embarrassment of failing to beat Qatar.
The only way out of this impasse remains the proposal by US Secretary of State Tillerson. The question of terrorism financing can be resolved through bilateral arrangements between the US and the GCC countries. Other issues need to be resolved through quiet mediation and negotiation.

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