Qatar: How Much Will Blockading Countries Push?

3 MINS READJul 21, 2017 | 19:45 GMT

Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Qarqash called Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani's changes to Qatar's anti-terrorism law a positive step and said that the pressure the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia has placed on Qatar is paying off.  The statement is a sign that Qatar's incremental efforts are not going unnoticed by its neighbors.

It is unclear, however, how Qatar will implement the new law passed by decree. The decree covers, among other things, new terrorist lists and the procedures for filling them. This is one of the six key changes that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have pushed Qatar to implement. But the countries will likely disagree on the actual definition of terrorism. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in particular have pushed hard for a broader definition that names entities and people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist. Qatar, which has throughout the years viewed itself as a sanctuary state for exiled peoples, is unlikely to define terrorism that broadly.

The adjustment to the terrorism law demonstrates Qatar's effort to manage the crisis through a balancing act with the United States. The United States does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. But by building out its terrorism database and clarifying the rules and stipulations on it, Qatar will make the United States happy. In turn, Washington will continue to support Kuwaiti efforts to mediate the crisis, ultimately limiting the four blockading countries' ability to put more pressure on Qatar. Behind the scenes, the four Arab powers are probably debating whether they are demanding too much and are now determining what would be more reasonable and what the United States would support. Earlier this week, the four states officially modified their 13 original and much stronger demands to the six weaker items on the table now. Qarqash's statements show that even the United Arab Emirates is softening its stance.

But Qatar will not rely solely on its alignment with and backing from the United States. Turkey will continue to be a formidable ally for Qatar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the weekend for a two-day trip designed to add a layer of direct Turkish mediation onto the Kuwaiti and U.S. mediation efforts. The Gulf Cooperation Council rift has prompted Turkey and Qatar to fortify their existing diplomatic and military ties, and Turkey has benefited economically from the extra food and supplies Turkey is shipping to Qatar. Turkey maintains a positive relationship with Saudi Arabia, despite competition between the two as the leading Sunni powers jostling for dominance in the Middle East. Turkey and the UAE, however, have an acrimonious accord rooted in the two countries' opposing views on supporting Islamist groups throughout the region, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. That Erdogan's trip does not include a stop in Abu Dhabi underscores that tension, which will persist well after the present intra-GCC crisis over Qatar subsides. Turkey won't be able to bring about a resolution to the current crisis, but Erdogan's visit helps reinforce that Qatar has powerful allies backing it up, another factor that will prolong the crisis as it reverberates throughout the wider region.

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