Relations among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have experienced tension in the past over a range of items, but the priority of keeping issues out of the media spotlight often worked to maintain a calm public face on things.
However, this week’s dramatic notice to Qatar by three GCC members has relayed the clear message, “enough is enough.”
The three countries withdrew their ambassadors from Doha after it became evident that Qatari officials didn’t intend to abide by earlier GCC agreements on non-intervention in other countries’ affairs. They would use occasion after occasion to express their intention to do so, but when nothing tangible appeared, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain decided that the behavior required a rare, open rebuke.
Some have focused on specific people and things – a religious figure or a television station – but the crux of the matter is Qatar’s determination to act on a world stage in a manner that is wildly out of line with its demographic clout. While Qatar may draw on its huge natural resources and financial empire, it remains a country of only a few hundred thousand people.
Qatar’s efforts to build a modern society and forge partnerships with world-class institutions on its home soil are one thing, but its drive to influence events in Egypt – a country with nearly 100 million people – as well as Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and Libya, to name a few examples, is quite another.
The stark reality is that Qatar now risks isolation in the Arab world. The sooner that Doha realizes its need for the GCC is much greater than the GCC’s need for Doha, the better.