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Should GCC States Take Qatar's Charm Offensive Seriously?

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There might not have been a better opportunity for Qatar to find its way back to the bosom of its neighbors than the last GCC foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh. The extraordinary summit, which is owed to enormous Kuwaiti diplomatic efforts, succeeded in creating a chance of normalizing relations between Qatar and fellow GCC states: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Many sought to analyze and interpret the recent developments as per their whims or according to what their alleged sources say. Truth is, only a few really know what the ministers really agreed on in Riyadh and what really went on behind the scenes.

Yet the one constant when it comes to dealing with Qatar is that, unfortunately, the Gulf state has proven that it cannot be trusted and that it doesn't live up to its commitments, even when such commitments are documented and signed off on.

And while it is too late now for Doha's old guard to make amends and enhance their reputation, the door is still open for Doha's new guard to deliver on the required commitments.

As such, the two-month grace period which is said to have been granted to Doha sounds like a wise decision since we have not yet reached the point of no return: Qatar has not responded by recalling its own ambassadors yet, while Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have not required the Qatari representative at their respective countries to leave nor did they resort to closing borders or sought more severe punitive measures.

However, the main question is defining what exactly the required commitments from Doha are; and this certainly seems like a case where what remains hidden from public knowledge is most likely far more interesting.

Yet, what is clear so far that Qatar appears to be serious about fixing relations with its neighbors. And perhaps the most significant indicator of this intention is the recently issued flirtatious comments issued by the Doha-based controversial sheikh, Yussef al-Qaradawi. The Egypt-born sheikh seems to have taken an interesting U-turn and went from previously attacking Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to issuing a statement declaring his love for both countries.

Actions not words

Of course, it remains to be confirmed if Qatar will really end its support for the Muslim Brotherhood (an organization now classified as a terrorist group by Qatar's neighbors) or is the intention is to put them on the shelf for a while, before using them again? And is Doha really serious about no longer using Al-Jazeera as a podium for broadcasting the Brotherhood's agenda? Or will it simply stop it at one end but continue to do so via the Brotherhood's new media outlets being established in London?

Last but certainly not least, has the Qatari leadership finally understood that "the ends justifies the means" policy which it adopted in its endeavor to become an "international player" has resulted in more losses than gains?

I say this because the Qataris must have realized that any potential hopes of having the world's superpower bow down to them in their capacity of chief financier of the Muslim Brotherhood has vaporized (the Qataris seem to have hoped to gain influence via propelling the Brotherhood's state project across the region following the 2011 revolutions).

Indeed a shrewd politician should realize when it is time to end the game and how and when to cut losses. (And I am not only referring here to the billions of dollars spent on supporting the Brotherhood but to priceless losses when it came to relations with fellow GCC countries).

Furthermore, if Qatar, by seeking to irritate its neighbors, is trying to place itself as "the most suitable alternative," then it must be aware that all it's really gaining is the enmity of its traditional allies and if anything, this will weaken and not strengthen its status!

Unlike what some Qatari government advisers seem to want for their neighbors, no one wants any harm for Qatar and we all are genuinely happy for any success they achieve; whether on the political, economic, cultural or sports' levels. Indeed, such successes can only help enhance our status as Gulf and Arab countries, and to be honest, I can't understand how these advisers are able to convince themselves and others that Qatar's success is not possible unless its neighbors fail!

Therefore, we should make use of this real opportunity to end the rift. The conflict must end not just for obvious historical and geographical reasons but also for the sake of security, economy and capability of confronting upcoming challenges. We need to understand that what is at stake is the potential Gulf Union project; which is the only ongoing project that is capable of serving as a safety valve, not just for securing the future of Doha itself, but for the Gulf and the entire region.

This blog post was originally published in Al Arabiya News on April 23, 2014.