An Emirati diplomat has justified demands that Qatar closes the Al Jazeera and other media organisations it "supports" by saying that the UAE does not back a free press.
His comments come as a senior UN official said that the demand represents a "serious threat to media freedom" and called on international governments to "not pursue" it.
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have undertaken an economic and transport blockade of Qatar and have tabled 13 demands that they say must be met if the blockade is to be lifted.
We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech
- Omar Ghobash, UAE ambassador to Russia
They include the severing of ties with the Muslim Brotherhood which they describe as a "terrorist” organisation and ending military cooperation with Turkey.
Omar Ghobash, the UAE's ambassador to Russia, said in an interview "We do not claim to have press freedom. We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech."
"Freedom of speech has different constraints in different places. Speech in our part of the world has a particular context, and that context can go from peaceful to violent in no time simply because of words that are spoken.”
Ghobash also said that the countries imposing the blockade are considering sanctioning those countries that continue to trade with Qatar.
But David Kaye, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression said: “This demand represents a serious threat to media freedom if States, under the pretext of a diplomatic crisis, take measures to force the dismantling of Al-Jazeera.”
Mr. Kaye said everyone’s right to access information was deeply affected when the safety and the freedom of the media was not secured.
“I call on the international community to urge these governments not to pursue this demand against Qatar, to resist taking steps to censor media in their own territory and regionally, and to encourage support for independent media in the Middle East,” he said.
"One possibility would be to impose conditions on our own trading partners and say you want to work with us then you have got to make a commercial choice."
Ghobash who was interviewed in London by the Guardian said that the coalition were not considering a military intervention but that he understood that their position could push Qatar into a closer relationship with Iran.
"We can escalate with more information, because we are not going to escalate militarily. That is not the way we are looking at things,” he said
'This is not bullying'
He said he understood there was a risk that Qatar was being forced into a closer relationship with Iran. "We are asking Qatar to make a choice and we realise they may choose to take the route to Iran, and we are willing to accept the consequences of that.”
He also said that the UAE would itself abide by a monitoring group it had called to be imposed on Qatar, which would allow Western countries to monitor its supposed funding of "terrorist” organisations.
"Yes we are making demands of Qatar, but it is very important to realise that we are imposing the same standards on ourselves," he said.
"So if we are to ask for the monitoring of Qatari financial transactions and its funding of terrorism then we would be open to the same idea. This is not bullying. This is demanding a higher standard throughout the whole region.
"We have nothing to hide ourselves so we are willing to meet the same standards we are asking Qatar. The West has traditionally complained of a lack of financial transparency in the region, and there must be a huge amount that the West can do to monitor what is happening.”
His comments come as Qatar responded to Saudi insistence that the demands are non-negotiable.
Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, speaking from Washington where he held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said:
"This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can't just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate," he said.
His Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, had said on Twitter: "Our demands on Qatar are non-negotiable. It's now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism."
In addition, the document revealed a meeting between bin Zayed and the US diplomat Richard Haas two months before the war on Iraq. Bin Zayed offered information to the Americans about Iraq and how to contain the anger people in the Arab world felt about this war.
The document revealed that bin Zayed called on the Americans to put more pressure in Qatar to rein in Al Jazeera’s coverage.
لم تكد تمضي ساعات على إطلاق وسم "سعوديون مع التطبيع"، تلك الحملة ظهرت فجأة على موقع "تويتر" من دون أن يُعرف مطلقوها والجهات التي تقف خلفها، حتّى بدأت تلك الدعوة تتخذ طابعًا علنيًّا، وتكشف عن بعض وجوهها. ذلك ما تشي به التصريحات التي أطلقها، اليوم الأربعاء، اللواء السابق في الجيش السعودي، ومدير مركز الشرق الأوسط للدراسات الاستراتيجية، أنور عشقي؛ ذو الباع الطويل في التطبيع مع الكيان الإسرائيلي.
وراح عشقي، في مقابلة مع موقع "دوتشيه فيليه" الألماني نُشرت اليوم الأربعاء، يروّج للتطبيع مع إسرائيل. وفي ردّ على سؤال حول إن كان توقيع اتفاقية ترسيم الحدود بين مصر والسعودية، بداية للتقارب مع إسرائيل، قال عشقي "لم يكن الهدف من استرداد الجزيرتين إقامة علاقة بين المملكة وإسرائيل، وإنما كان الهدف ترسيم الحدود مع مصر، وعندما رسمت الحدود أصبحت الجزيرتان داخل حدود المملكة، وهذا سيفضي إلى التعامل مع معاهدة كامب ديفيد. أي أن المعاهدة لم تعد مصرية إسرائيلية، وإنما صارت دولية، فمصر والسعودية ستشتركان في السيطرة على الممر الذي تمر منه السفن الإسرائيلية والأردنية وغيرها من السفن التي تمر للبلدين. والمملكة ستنسج علاقة مع إسرائيل، وشرط وجود هذه العلاقة هو موافقة إسرائيل على المبادرة العربية وتطبيقها".
ورأى أنور عشقي، الذي سبق أن زار أكثر من مرّة الأراضي المحتلة، والتقى مسؤولين إسرائيليين، أن السعودية "ستتجه للتطبيع مع إسرائيل بعد تطبيق المبادرة العربية. طرح رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية نتنياهو مبادرة أيضا، وهي مختلفة عن المبادرة العربية بشيء قليل، وتُدرس الآن في الولايات المتحدة. بعد ذلك سينظر فيها، فإذا وافق عليها الإخوة الفلسطينيون فأنا على يقين من أن المملكة لن تعترض على ذلك".
وقال إن الفوارق بين المبادرتين، تدور حول أن تجيز "إسرائيل أن يكون هناك دولة فلسطينية على أن تكون على اتحاد كونفيدرالي وبضمان من الأردن ومصر. والنقطة الثانية أن يترك أمر القدس إلى النهاية".
ومضى عشقي قائلاً إن "أهم الأوراق التي تملكها المملكة هي التطبيع مع إسرائيل. هذه أكبر ضمانة الآن لإعطاء الفلسطينيين حقوقهم، لأنه كما تبين لنا في مؤتمر القمة الإسلامي فإن موقف المملكة دليل للدول الإسلامية، فإذا طبّعت المملكة مع إسرائيل سوف تطبع الدول الإسلامية كلها مع إسرائيل، وستكون قد كسرت العزلة بين إسرائيل ودول المنطقة". معتبراً أن "إسرائيل أبدت في هذه المبادرة التي طرحتها نوعا من المرونة في إعطاء الفلسطينيين حقوقهم".
وفي وقت تشنّ فيه حملات سعودية على مختلف منصّات التواصل الاجتماعي، ضدّ التطبيع مع إسرائيل، ورفضاً للقاءات التطبيعية التي يجريها عشقي، زعم الأخير أن "المجتمع السعودي الآن لو نظرنا إلى تغريدات وتعليقات أبنائه نجد أنهم يقولون إن إسرائيل لم يسجل منها عدوان واحد على المملكة".
وكانت صحيفة "هآرتس" الإسرائيلية قد كشفت، في يوليو/تموز الماضي، عن زيارة قام بها عشقي إلى القدس المحتلة، التقى خلالها كلاً من مدير عام وزارة الخارجية دور غولد؛ وهو صديق عشقي منذ وقت طويل، ومسؤول التنسيق الأمني في الضفة الغربية المحتلة، يوآف مردخاي، في فندق الملك داود.
وقالت الصحيفة إن "عشقي حضر إلى إسرائيل مصطحبا معه بعثة أكاديمية ورجال أعمال سعوديّين، التقوا خلال الزيارة الحميمة بمجموعة من أعضاء الكنيست، بهدف تشجيع الخطاب في إسرائيل، حول مبادرة السّلام العربيّة".
Hamas was left off Saudi's list of demands for Qatar. Days earlier, a Fatah strongman made a deal with one of the movement's leaders - only no one else in Hamas knew. Now it threatens to split the movement
There was one notable omission from the list of 13 demands that Saudi gave Qatar 10 days to fulfil.
The movement in question is undoubtedly sheltered by Qatar. It grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood and seeks the destruction of the state of Israel. Both the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Ambassador Nikki Haley have called on the UN Security Council to list it as a terrorist organisation.
And yet Hamas appears to have dropped off the list presented to Qatar on Friday.
A few days before this list emerged, another curious event took place in Cairo. Mohammed Dahlan, the arch rival of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and a man bankrolled and sheltered by the Emiratis, was in town to meet two Hamas men, one an elected official.
Al-Resalah, a Hamas newspaper in Gaza, confirmed the meeting took place but denied that Dahlan himself was present.
In fact, not only was Dahlan - the Fatah strongman who tried to mount a pre-emptive coup against Hamas in Gaza in 2007 - present at the meeting,I am told. More importantly, so was Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ newly elected leader in Gaza.
Dahlan presented Sinwar with a comprehensive plan, the guts of which was this: “You allow me back into Gaza, and I will ease the blockade on the Egyptian border.”
A pro-regime Egyptian newspaper Al Fajer, went further: Dahlan, it reported, will lead the government in Gaza, control the crossing with Egypt and Israel and the finance, while Hamas will keep the interior ministry and its employees will be treated as part of the administration. This may not materialise, but it at least shows the direction of travel.
As the siege imposed on the Egyptian border has been even more brutal than the one imposed by Israel, the offer was tempting. So tempting that Sinwar apparently shook hands on it. Within days, fuel trucks rolled through the crossing point at Rafah.
The only problem with this new arrangement was that the rest of Hamas knew nothing about it.
Four years, one meeting
Sinwar is the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Of the three sections of Hamas - Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora - Gaza is the most important because it is a de facto state, but it is only one of three.
It took four years of internal discussion to change its charter. It apparently took one meeting for Sinwar to reverse a policy which has been in existence for 11 years
Above all of them lies the Shura Council which elects the head of the political executive. The current head of the executive is Ismail Haniyeh, who replaced Khaled Meshaal in Doha last month. For the first time in the history of the movement, the head of the political executive lives in Gaza and therefore his movements are restricted by the siege.
Haniyeh has told associates he knew nothing about Sinwar’s meeting with Dahlan. Still less did he sanction its alleged decision.
But Sinwar’s first action as head of Hamas in Gaza has created an unprecedented crisis for the movement as a whole. Over decades, it has made cautious, deliberate steps and only after lengthy periods of consultation with all parts of the movement.
It took four years of internal discussion to change its charter. It apparently took one meeting for Sinwar to reverse a policy which has been in existence for 11 years, since the siege started.
An informed source told me: “This is very dangerous and unprecedented for the movement. This is a clear attempt to split Hamas, which ever since 1992, when the brains of the movement moved outside Gaza, made strategic decisions only after extensive collective consultation.
“The UAE want to squeeze Turkey and Qatar out of Gaza. Dahlan and the UAE want to deal a blow to the Qatar-Turkish axis by splitting Hamas.”
Dahlan’s offer to alleviate the siege was both toxic and tempting.
Tony Blair made a similar offer to Khaled Meshaal in a series of talks which I first revealed. Blair offered to lift the siege in return for a hudna (a truce). The talks fell through because neither Israel nor Egypt were behind them. But Meshaal was wary of trading the right, as Hamas sees it, to resist occupation for unlimited supplies of pasta and chocolate.
Abbas and his main Fatah rival, Dahlan, are in a deadly competition for Trump’s affection
This time, conditions in Gaza are far worse. Under threats from Trump, Abbas has told Israel to cut electricity supplies in Gaza from six hours a day to two (it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, that pays for the Strip’s electricity). This, and his decision to cut the salaries of PA employees in Gaza and even the salaries of some of Fatah’s own prisoners in Israeli jails, has done huge damage to Abbas’s support.
When a supporter raised a photograph of Abbas in the grounds of Al Aqsa on the day of Eid, a crowd attacked and destroyed the image chanting “traitor, traitor”.
It could be that Abbas feels he has no other choice. Abbas and his main Fatah rival, Dahlan, are in a deadly competition for Trump’s affection.
Dahlan has already tried once to return to Palestine by attempting to stage a reconciliation with Abbas. The Palestinian president rejected this and cut Dahlan’s supporters out of the Fatah central committee. Now Dahlan is trying a new route in through Gaza and Hamas.
Trump’s statement before more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh that Hamas was a terrorist organisation, the declared hostility of the Arab states, and now Dahlan’s latest attempt to buy an entry visa from Hamas, all set the context for the meeting with Sinwar.
The Gaza link
For the moment, both Abbas and Dahlan are serving the Saudi and Emirati interest in wanting to see Hamas cut down to size and to see Qatar’s influence diminish over Gaza. Qatar is the largest international donor to the Strip, pledging $1.3bn for its reconstruction. It pays money directly to workers on construction sites. With an unemployment rate of over 40 percent, that money and that work is the only game in town.
What was the Saudi response to a gesture to soften a negotiating position? To declare Hamas a terrorist organisation
The blockade of Qatar is intimately connected to the siege of Gaza.
Until the Cairo meeting, Hamas as a movement played both sides of Fatah off each other.
On Abbas’s request, Hamas allowed hundreds of Fatah delegates to travel from Gaza to the West Bank, so that they could vote for Abbas’s candidates for the Fatah central committee. This was an operation intended to keep Dahlan and his supporters out of power and out of the West Bank.
By the same token, Hamas sent delegates to a series of meetings in Cairo, which brought them closer to Dahlan. Dahlan and Egypt saw this strategy working.
For Hamas, the lessons of both the Gulf power struggle and the Fatah struggle are bitter.
Hamas had, in fact, just replaced its original charter with a document that recognised Israel's 1967 borders. The movement did this to make it easier for all Palestinian factions to adopt a common position, but also to help the Arab states who were trying to resuscitate the Arab Peace Initiative. What was the Saudi response to a gesture to soften a negotiating position? To declare Hamas a terrorist organisation.
This is in keeping with Fatah’s history. One concession after another was demanded of the party, and they got nothing in return. In the process, they alienated their support which went broadly to Hamas. If Hamas starts to haemorrhage support in the way Fatah did, these people would not go back the way they came. They would swell the ranks of Takfiri groups like the Islamic State group.
Sinwar emerged from more than 20 years of Israeli prison with the reputation of being a militant hardliner. He was released as part of the prisoner exchange with the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The attraction of negotiating with him was the same the British felt in opening talks with Michael Collins, the IRA leader and revolutionary hero of the War of Independence. However, Collins became the man who gave the orders to open fire on the four courts in Dublin with artillery shells against his own former men, who formed the anti-Treaty IRA. That kicked off the Irish civil war.
Does Sinwar want to follow either in Collins’ footsteps or indeed those of Mahmoud Abbas?
- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
US President Donald Trump's recent statements and tweets on the Middle East have puzzled US friends and foes alike by threatening further escalation of regional conflicts.
Last year, he said that he would "seek harmony" in the Middle East as US commander-in-chief. But after his first visit to the region, tensions began to rise, especially in the Gulf. Now Trump's flip-flopping is threatening the stability of the area, which holds some 50 percent of the world's energy reserves.
On one hand, after long claiming that Saudi Arabia hated America and was behind 9/11, he now sees the kingdom as the bedrock of regional security and moderation, America's best friend and foremost ally in the "war on terror".
On the other hand, less than two weeks after calling Qatar a "crucial strategic partner" in his Riyadh speech, and boasting of selling it "beautiful" American weapons, he suddenly began to jeer against Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
To add to the confusion, Trump then offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and asked his secretary of state to calm the situation and urge restraint, which he did rather tactfully in a carefully worded public statement.
But less than an hour later, Trump accused Qatar of historic, high-level support of terrorism and undermined his foreign policy establishment in the process.
All of which begs the question: Why? Why the dramatic u-turn on Saudi Arabia, the confusion on Qatar? And what are the implications for the region?
Puzzling foreign policy
Some blamed the administration's most recent flip-flop on the persistent foreign policy confusion in the Trump White House. Others detected complicity between the president and his secretary of state, suggesting that they have been playing "good cop-bad cop" with Qatar.
For his part, Trump claimed that he took the position against Qatar after his meetings in the region, where his counterparts told him of Qatar's support for terrorism.
But what could the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis say that the CIA, Department of State or the Pentagon didn't know or couldn't share with the president before his upbeat meeting with the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani?
After all, Qatar has $30bn worth of investments in the United States and stands out as the host of the largest American military base in the Middle East, from which much of the "war on terror" is being fought in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, most of the trumped up charges against Qatar are either demonstrably thin, false or totally fake.
For example, the Band of Four accuses Qatar of supporting the Taliban because it opened an office for the Afghan insurgency, when in fact it did so at the behest of the US administration to facilitate peace talks.
Qatar has also been accused of supporting some of the anti-regime groups in Syria, but a number of its Gulf partners also did so. Moreover, General Joseph Vogel, chief of the US military's Central Command, wrote that Qatar is a "key and critical" ally that could be of much help in facilitating a sustainable deal in Syria.
Hamas' political presence in Doha was another item of complaint. But by allowing Hamas a political presence in their capital, the Qataris have had a moderating effect on the Palestinian resistance group. It's perhaps worth remembering that Hamas won the last legislative elections in Palestine, which the Bush administration helped facilitate a decade ago.
He that is without sin...
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has rightly claimed Qatar has "a history of supporting groups that span the spectrum of political expression from activism to violence". But who doesn't do that in the Middle East? Washington also has such a record, and it is a very long and extensive one. Besides, it's no vice to support those who seek freedom from occupation and oppression.
Unless the US and European foreign policy establishments restrain the Trump presidency from taking more reckless steps, we may be heading towards more regional chaos and conflict.
The same goes for accusations against Qatar "punching above its weight", especially when it does so in the realm of soft power, like media, philanthropy and sport. Don't tiny UAE and Israel, just like Saudi Arabia, punch above their weights in most controversial ways?
And then there's my favourite accusation of Qatar "having it both ways" by presumably financing Al Jazeera and providing platforms for persons and groups hostile to US and Israel, and at the same time hosting the biggest US military base in the region. Assuming that's a real issue, for that I say, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
It seems to me that's traditionally what countries do, for ill or good. Some call it statecraft or a balancing act. Others refer to it as pragmatism or opportunism. But it's certainly nothing abnormal in international relations, especially when it comes to smaller countries trying to stay afloat in stormy waters.
Also, which country involved in this whole mess doesn't try to "have it both ways"? Could it be the Egyptians, who condemned Hamas and opened an indirect channel to the Palestinian group in Gaza? The Emiratis, who accuse Qatar of interfering in other countries' affairs, while intervening militarily in Libya, Yemen and other countries? Could it be the Saudis, who speak of regional stability while waging a reckless war in Yemen? Or be it the US, which supports its NATO ally, Turkey, while simultaneously arming its nemesis within, the PYD/PKK?
How do any of these even begin to compare with what Qatar does?
To be sure, Qatar has made a few mistakes of its own in the early days of the Arab Spring, but it also seems to have learned from past mistakes, notably the idea that diplomacy trumps war, and mediation, openness and reform is the safest and best long-term bet in an evermore complicated region.
And Qatar is back at doing what it does best. Like a Geneva in the Gulf, it hosted mediation efforts among various conflicting parties, be they Palestinians, Lebanese, Sudanese, Afghans, Libyans or others; certainly more than any other state in the region. And whatever leverage it has over so-called extremist groups, it has used effectively to resolve, not inflame conflict.
Alas, some of Qatar's more hostile neighbours seem to have concluded the opposite after their adventures in Yemen as well as Libya and Syria. After decades of destructive wars, they're now advocating open confrontation with Tehran.
To be sure, Qatar has long sided with Saudi Arabia in opposing Iran's sectarian policies in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria. But like most other Arab and Western nations, it opposes an open showdown with Iran in the Gulf, and rejects the idea of regime change there - especially as the Iranians continue to show support for moderate governments that are frequently at odds with Iranian extremists and are more concerned with building up their country than with regional hegemony.
And yet, the US president has allowed Riyadh to take draconian measures against Qatar even after it became clear that their pretexts are false and their consequences, intended or otherwise, are leading to serious escalation and instability in the region.
So if it's not about Qatari behaviour, what is the crisis about and why has Trump inflamed it?
Bribed, duped or complicit?
One grudge Trump might have against Qatar lies in the fact that, unlike the Emiratis and the Saudis, who invested in his properties and gave him generous concessions, it didn't give Trump business incentives that would allow him to expand his brand in the country.
But such banality couldn't really be the reason why the US president was so prone to ride the anti-Qatar bandwagon, could it? Alas, and for the record, during his campaign, Trump did boast about liking the Saudis for buying $40 million apartments in his towers.
Considering his tendency to value money above principle, and everything else, the US president was clearly "bribed" by his Saudi hosts during his visit to the country. They offered the Trump administration hundreds of billions of dollars of lucrative arms purchases and promises of investment before asking their guest to support them against their nemesis, Qatar.
Indeed, the Saudis exploited Trump's short-sighted consent to outsource his campaign against "Islamic terrorism" in order to frame Qatar. They also used this opportunity to deflect any and all US accusations directed at the kingdom in the US Congress and media.
But Trump might've also had an agenda of his own that correlated with that of the Saudis and Emiratis. Trump made a strategic decision to reverse Obama's policy towards the Middle East and has committed his administration to support Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the UAE against Sunni extremism and Iranian clerics.
This meant creating the right conditions for rapprochement between Israel, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the so-called "outside-in" approach to resolving - or rather dissolving - the Palestinian issue. The fact that this effort is headed by Trump's inexperienced, radically Zionist son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who maintains close relations with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks volumes. We are witnessing an "unholy trinity" that's bound to destroy any hope for regional stability.
Worse, instead of leading an already quite disastrous regional coalition against Iran, Trump lazily entrusted this new strategy to his reckless junior allies. This is exactly what his predecessor, President Barack Obama, rejected. Obama refused to be dragged into petty squabbles and regional confrontations. He may have been weak on Syria, but he was smart to decouple US strategy from that of its regional clients, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In short, Obama refrained from leveraging US power to these unsavoury or inexperienced regional players, which would have been utterly dangerous, if not totally suicidal.
This might explain the reason why the experienced men and women at the US State Department and the Pentagon didn't go along with President Trump's unconditional embrace of Riyadh, and warned against drinking Abu Dhabi's Kool-Aid.
Indeed, Secretary Tillerson was "mystified" by the sudden escalation and took the initiative from the White House to lash out at Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their procrastination and lack of seriousness in articulating their grievances and presenting their demands to Qatar. He also questioned the motivations behind the crisis, arguing that they manufactured the crisis with Qatar to settle old grievances that have nothing to do with terrorism or security.
Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, who has ample experience in the Gulf region, insisted that the demands from Qatar must be "reasonable and actionable" in order to bring a swift end to the crisis and avoid compromising wider US interests.
Interestingly, since Tillerson publicly reprimanded Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their procrastination, President Trump has (thus far) kept quiet and allowed his more qualified foreign policy chiefs to handle the crisis with caution and maturity.
Indeed, the White House seemingly made another u-turn last week, saying that the Gulf crisis was a "family issue" rather than an international crisis about supporting terrorism.
Wait! What! A family feud? Really?! So what about accusing Qatar of "historic high-level support of terrorism" and giving the green light to the Emirati and Saudi leaders to behave recklessly? Is it really possible to classify this crisis as a "family issue" after the Band of Four exploited Trump's folly to besiege Qatar, split the GCC, and plunge the region into a downward spiral?
The damned demands
When a list of demands that the Band of Four say Qatar must comply with in order to end the crisis was finally released, it turned out to be neither reasonable nor actionable. Indeed, there's a general consensus that the demands in the 13-point list are anything but "measured and realistic", to quote UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
If anything, the wording, tone and sweeping nature of the document signal total ignorance of international law and the UN charter. The text underlines Saudi Arabia and the UAE's unmasked intention to take control of Qatar's sovereignty and independent foreign policy.
The assumptions in the list, such as Qatar's support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) or al-Qaeda, are clearly baseless. And contrary to US insistence on evidence to support their accusations, there was absolutely nothing in the document to support these outrageous claims.
The Band of Four demands that Qatar downgrade diplomatic relations with Iran, even though the UAE is Iran's leading trading partner in the GCC, and the other GCC members, Oman and Kuwait, nurture stronger diplomatic relations with Tehran than Qatar.
And they demanded that Qatar round up all opposition figures from their countries in contravention to international humanitarian law, and demanded that Qatar treat the Muslims Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, not a mere opposition group, as seen by most countries of the world. Qatar, like most or all Western nations, has long warned of the dangers and implications of sweeping generalisations and the labelling of popular political opposition groups as "terrorist".
The Band of Four regimes also require Qatar to shut down a modest Turkish military base it has been hosting for over two years, while continuing to host a US base. How is this a logical demand given that the UAE is hosting a French military base and Bahrainan American naval base?
But the demand that smacks of total hypocrisy and, frankly, stupidity, is the one that calls for an immediate shutdown of Al Jazeera, its affiliates and all other media outlets that are presumably supported directly or indirectly by Qatar.
These demands reflect Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian and Bahraini intolerance for difference of opinion and press freedom. These countries are attempting to silence respectable media outlets when they themselves finance and support propaganda outlets that are infamous for their hate and sectarian speech.
Fortunately, this demand has been rejected and condemned by renowned media organisations, such as the New York Times and The Guardian, as well as international rights organisations.
Last but not least, the demand that Qatar complies with all 13 conditions in 10 days, and also consent to provide monthly compliance reports, underline the obvious fact that the Band of Four is not willing to resolve the crisis for anything short of the total surrender of Qatar's sovereignty.
All of this begs the question: Why is the Band of Four so eager to suppress Al Jazeera and Qatar's independent foreign policy?
Another major Gulf conflict?
When Tillerson finally weighed in on the list of demands this past weekend, he said some are difficult to meet and others may work as a base for long-term dialogue. But that's just a diplomatic way to say the demands are not actionable, measured or realistic.
Now the Band of Four is threatening Qatar with "divorce" if it doesn't swiftly and fully comply with its demands, which clearly demonstrates that this crisis is not a simple "family feud" or a rift caused by Qatar's alleged support for terrorism.
In reality, this quarrel has little or nothing to do with combatting terrorism. These four regimes are responsible for the death of tens of thousands, and hold tens of thousands of political prisoners. They will not stop until they erase any and all traces of the Arab Spring and the ideas it envisioned in the minds of Arabs; namely, justice and freedom of speech. These dreams may "contaminate" the peoples of the Gulf and the rest of the Arab world.
They insist on shutting down all forums that give voice to the ideas of the Arab Spring, including Al Jazeera, and on ending Qatar's assistance or support for anyone or any group that survived the counterrevolution in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.
Unfortunately, despite their dark, repressive and reactionary nature, these measures in effect complement the White House's embrace of Arab "thugs, dictators and strongmen" at the expense of their peoples in order to narrowly advance Trump's pro-Israeli, anti-Iranian and anti-Islamist agenda in the region.
Unless the US and European foreign policy establishments restrain the Trump presidency from taking more reckless steps, we may be heading towards more regional chaos and conflict.
After all, the blowbacks from another major showdown in the Gulf will worsen Western and Arab security alike. ALIKE.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera. Follow him on Facebook.