Reported by Imad Alatas
Historical Origins of the Crisis
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ostensibly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar for the reason of the latter supporting terrorist groups and having strong relations with Iran. However, the roots of the Gulf crisis go much deeper, specifically to 1995 when the current Qatari Emir’s father, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, took power. The method of ascension to power, through a coup d’état, was not well received by Qatar’s surrounding neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and UAE. HH Sheikh Hamad quickly understood that he needed to introduce measures in spheres such as education, diplomacy and mediation, culture, sport and the media to safeguard the legitimacy of his monarchical rule. Qatar’s foreign policy would be characterized by two main factors: its independence and openness. On the other hand, the foreign policy of the State of Qatar is based on three strategies: its own brand image which it derives from diplomacy, media, education and sports; its relationship with its neighbour in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran; and finally the alliance with the big powers and players in the World such as France, UK and the United States of America respectively. An analysis of these two factors and three strategies can help one to view the crisis of June 5, 2017 as an accumulation of processes.
Consolidating Qatar’s Brand Image
The Qatari leaders know that Qatar is a very small state in the Gulf with respect to its geographical area and its population size. Furthermore, they do not possess a lot of natural resources except for gas and petrol. Hence, Qatar had to rely on building its cultural capital to create its brand image of cosmopolitanism. Aljazeera Media Network, Western-based universities in Qatar such as the Northwestern University and Georgetown University in Qatar’s education hub (Education City), and even the use of religion all sought to create a certain brand image of Qatar that was progressive and capable of development despite its challenges as a small state.