Having placed Qatar under economic siege earlier this month – in a row that was triggered by a fake news report – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have now issued a formal list of demands. Qatar has been given 10 days to comply, or face unspecified consequences.
The demands – assuming they have been accurately reported – amount to an ultimatum. There is no realistic prospect of Qatar agreeing to them, because to do so would effectively end its existence as an independent state.
It's not unreasonable to wish for changes in Qatar's behaviour but the same could also be said of the four countries on the other side – especially Saudi Arabia, which has done more over the years to promote religious intolerance and inspire terrorism than any other country in the region.
The demands seem less about securing an agreement that might bring change than escalating the current confrontation.
In effect, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain are asking Qatar to hand over control of its foreign policy to them. It will not be allowed to have diplomatic relations with Iran and its contact with Iran will be limited to trade and commerce that "complies with US and international sanctions". Qatar will not be allowed contact with political opposition figures in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – even though other countries (including western countries) do so routinely. In addition, Qatar is being asked to hand over all its files on those opposition groups.
Severing links with terrorist organisations is a good idea in principle – except that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc, will be mainly responsible for deciding which groups to classify as "terrorist".
It's not unreasonable to wish for changes in Qatar's behaviour but the same could be said of the four countries on the other side – especially Saudi Arabia, which has done more over the years to promote religious intolerance and inspire terrorism than any other country in the region.
Qatar is also being asked to "end interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs" while allowing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc, apparently unlimited interference in Qatar's own affairs. Qatar, according to the list of demands, must "align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically".
Then there's the closure of Qatar's TV station, al-Jazeera. Obviously, the Saudis, Emiratis, etc, don't like it. But by the same token Qatar might reasonably demand the closure of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya and the UEA-based Sky News Arabia.
Qatar is also told to stop funding several other news organisations, including Middle East Eye and al-Arabi al-Jadeed (also available in English as The New Arab). Both of those operate legally from the UK and their activities fall well within the bounds of free speech. They certainly have a political slant but they also produce some interesting news, of a professional standard.
Finally, Qatar is being asked to sign blank cheque covering "reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years". Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have not specified an actual amount and say the sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
The Associated Press has circulated a summary of the 13 demands, translated from Arabic:
1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.
2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organizations,” specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group, al-Qaida, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
3. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
5 . Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.
6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the United States and other countries.
7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
11. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
12. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid. The document doesn’t specify what the countries will do if Qatar refuses to comply.