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Qatar will not be intimidated


By Mutlaq Al-Qahtani

As the Gulf crisis enters its third month, it is clear the blockade against Qatar has not succeeded.
If Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the countries driving the confrontation, despite the appearance of a unified bloc — hoped to bring Qatar to its knees, they have failed. If they hoped to damage Qatar's reputation and improve their own, they have failed. If they hoped to enhance their relationship with the US at Qatar's expense, again, they have failed.
Instead, the anti-Qatar smear campaign has put a spotlight on the shameful history and unsavoury practices of the Saudis and Emiratis themselves. Saudi Arabia justifies the blockade by alleging that Qatari authorities"support extremists and terrorist organisations". But the accusation only reminds observers that the Saudis have consistently failed to prevent the radicalisation of their citizens.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. Thousands of Saudi citizens have taken up arms to join Islamic State and other radical groups. Saudi textbooks are used in ISIS schools. Many of the five dozen groups that the US State Department designates as terror organisations are funded by Saudi nationals.
The Emirates have taken a similarly hypocritical stance. While the UAE falsely portrays itself as America's best ally in the region, its track record is no better than Saudi Arabia's. Two Emiratis participated in the September 11 hijackings, and the staff report to the 9/11 Commission revealed that much of the funding for the attacks flowed through the UAE, which was a world hub for money laundering.
The UAE has fared no better with regard to freedom of speech and press. In 2014, authorities arrested a man for plotting a terrorist attack on a Formula One racetrack in Abu Dhabi. But the Emirates prohibited international media outlets from reporting on the trial. The UAE's recent clampdown on free speech has been widely condemned, especially after the country's Justice Ministry said in June that supporting Qatar on social media could be punishable by fines and even prison time.
Meanwhile, leaked emails show that Emirati officials were conspiring with a variety of interest groups and lobbyists to slander Qatar long before the blockade was imposed. Now, intelligence experts and Qatar's cybersecurity services have identified the UAE as the perpetrator of the hacking of Qatar News Agency, which set the entire Gulf crisis in motion.
Surely this kind of publicity can't be what the Saudis and Emiratis hoped for when they instigated this crisis. Yet the longer the blockade goes on, the more damaging information the world will learn about them — and the more difficult it will be to resolve their differences with Qatar.
It's time to abandon the public-relations campaigns, the blockade, the ultimatums and the pressure tactics and meet at the negotiating table, so we can broker a fair and just resolution to the Gulf crisis.

Mutlaq al Qahtani is special envoy for Qatar's foreign minister for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

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