An earthquake in the Persian Gulf
Analysis: Arab countries’ decision to break off relations with Qatar did not come out of the blue. The new conflict began shortly after US President Trump left Saudi Arabia, when someone provided the Saudi, Egyptian, UAE and Bahraini leaders with incriminating information about funds transferred to Islamic terror organizations.
It was neither the wild incitement on Al-Jazeera against the neighboring leaders’ corruption, nor the complaints Qatar was meddling in the internal affairs of the five countries that announced Monday they were cutting ties with the emirate. Something else led to the rift, an intelligence report that stirred things up.
Someone provided the Saudi king, the president of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates leader and the king of Bahrain with incriminating information about the channels used to transfer funds coming out of Qatar and traveling a long and winding road before reaching Islamic terror organizations. This person made sure to take pictures of the briefcases full of money that were sent to Sudan and to Libya—as Qatar has no liquidity problems—in a bid to stimulate the recruitment of terrorists in Sinai against the Egyptian government. That someone also managed to prove Qatar was involved in the attempts to topple the king of Bahrain.
The decision to sever ties with Qatar did not come out of the blue. In the summer of 2014, when the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, labeled the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a legitimate liberation organization, Egypt convinced Saudi Arabia and three Gulf emirates to recall their ambassadors from Doha and to expel Qatar’s diplomats.
Israel, meanwhile, may have let the emir’s envoy, Mohammad al-Amadi, transfer funds for the “reconstruction of Gaza,” but it closely monitored the other use made of the funds.
The new conflict, which has already been dubbed “an earthquake in the Gulf,” began 10 days ago, shortly after US President Donald Trump completed his sword dance in Saudi Arabia. On one hand, the Saudis stopped at nothing to flatter Trump and promised to create a “research center” to eliminate terror. On the other hand, the intelligence that arrived in Riyadh drove the Gulf leaders mad. Egypt recruited its top broadcaster to declare war on the gas emirate. Saudi Arabia showered the princes’ palaces in Doha with curses and threats.
On Sunday night, former Arab Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, the mentor and confidential advisor of the 37-year-old Qatari leader, dropped a bombshell, announcing he was giving up his position and the perks in Doha’s top echelon and devoting himself to writing. Bishara knows where the wind is blowing. He knows and remembers the incriminating information that was collected against him and drove him out of the Knesset. He remembers those who collected that information, shared the intelligence with the security establishments in the region, and the many to who slammed their doors in Bishara’s face—until he landed in Qatar.
“This matchbox! All this noise is coming out of this matchbox?” former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak once mocked Qatar. On Monday, the Al-Jazeera channel betrayed distress and hysteria. The severed ties are not just a diplomatic punishment. The naval, air and land siege could—if Saudi Arabia persists—suffocate the emirate and kick Sheikh Tamim out of his extravagant palace in Doha.
The emir was reminded that while Qatar is the richest country in the world, the leader caught red-handed could—at any given moment—follow in the footsteps of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. If he fails to cave in, if he doesn’t pledge to stop the games of terror, he will end up in prison.