US secretary of state Rex Tillerson demanded that Qatar “must do more and ... more quickly” to end support and financing of terrorism. Paul Richards / AFP
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson demanded that Qatar “must do more and ... more quickly” to end support and financing of terrorism. Paul Richards / AFP

The crisis is only just beginning for Qatar



When Donald Trump tweeted unmistakably strong support for the Arab coalition confronting Qatar, the final window of hope slammed shut on Doha. Qatar’s only practical way out of the crisis was hope that Washington would mediate the crisis in a spirit of strict neutrality and press all sides to return to the status quo ante. That’s clearly not happening

Some voices in Washington did suggest such an approach, arguing that the United States should avoid any involvement in a “spat” between allies and that US military interests in Qatar overrule all other considerations. This perspective – which is informed mainly by narrow or ill-informed understandings and fails to appreciate the effect of Qatar’s conduct on regional affairs – has not prevailed. A more cautious and circumspect approach rather than blustering, self-congratulatory presidential tweets would certainly have been preferable. But the US clearly understands it has a major stake in the outcome.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson struck a more subtle tone. He demanded that Qatar “must do more and ... more quickly” to end support and financing of terrorism, while calling on Arab states to “ease the blockade against Qatar”.

Note that this apparently even-handed approach actually asks Qatar to change its behaviour while urging the others to move back to towards business as usual. Therefore, whether phrased bluntly or more subtly, the American position is clearly siding firmly with the Arab bloc and against Qatar.

Even more ominously for Doha, the Trump administration has asked Saudi Arabia for a list of specific demands on Qatar to restore former relations.

This confirms that Washington wants to resolve the dispute but realises that this cannot involve a repetition of the 2014 rupture wherein Qatar promised to change its behaviour but, after a period of relative caution, backslid and resumed its support of political and religious radicals and double-dealing on Iran.

Qatar is defiant and putting on a brave face. But the reality is that it is surrounded by outraged neighbours, partners and nominal allies. The travel, trade and communications embargoes that have been imposed, especially by Saudi Arabia, which effectively controls Qatar’s only land border, will be increasingly crippling. Moreover, sanctions are widening and intensifying, and more Arab countries are joining the camp that is downgrading relations with Qatar until it mends its ways.

Turkey is giving Qatar considerable diplomatic and rhetorical support, and speeding up some limited and hardly game-changing military cooperation. But the reality is that Ankara is not able to provide Qatar with the breadth and depth of support the tiny country needs, especially over the long run.

Nor can Turkey project enough power at such distances to become the new Qatari patron and guarantor of its prerogatives over the vehement objections and opposition of its immediate Arab neighbours.

Much as both Ankara and Doha might want this, the idea of Qatar becoming a client of Turkey is neither realistic nor viable.

Iran, too, is offering a wide range of support to Qatar. Tehran is clearly relishing the discord in the Arab camp and fanning the flames as energetically as possible. Unlike Turkey’s offers, though, Qatar is largely rebuffing Iran, at least in public. But more quietly Doha certainly seems to be moving ever closer to Tehran, both confirming some of the main charges against it and deepening the rift with Arab countries and Washington.

Iran’s support is theoretically more realistic than Turkey’s, given its geographical proximity to Qatar, but politically it is far more non-viable. Indeed, any overt or substantive steps by Doha to decisively align with Tehran would be a catastrophic error. It could lead to suspension or expulsion from the Gulf Cooperation Council, American moves to shift its military presence in Qatar to a neighbouring country, and might even destabilise the Qatari regime itself.

Doha knows all this full well and therefore must keep Iran at arm’s length in public even if it moves closer to it in quieter ways during the crisis. And it’s almost certain that Qatar will have to reverse any moves towards Tehran – and then shift further away from it than it has been in the past decade or more – if it wants to find a way out of the crisis it has created for itself.

Not only does Qatar lack any viable options, especially now that Washington has plainly sided against it, the crisis for Doha is just beginning. If this drags on for months, the country’s economy will be severely damaged, its regional role all but eliminated, and many of its plans – possibly including hosting the World Cup – either disrupted or rendered impossible.

Qatar may drag this out to share the pain, but it knows it is going to have to capitulate eventually. And just as it is openly working with Turkey and quietly with Iran to maximise its options and minimise the damage it sustains during the confrontation, it is simultaneously now taking steps to reach out and seek a resolution.

Qatar also knows that it cannot end the crisis without agreeing to a series of measures the Arab bloc is demanding, especially insofar as they are also insisted on by Washington. Doha is therefore visibly moving towards negotiating the terms of its coming inevitable climb down, and limiting the price it must pay. Doha cannot endure current circumstances, let alone an additional significant escalation. Qatar has no choice.

Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States ­Institute in Washington

On Twitter: @ibishblog

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Dolittle

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen

One-and-a-half out of five stars

MATCH RESULT

Al Jazira 3 Persepolis 2
Jazira:
Mabkhout (52'), Romarinho (77'), Al Hammadi (90'+6)
Persepolis: Alipour (42'), Mensha (84')

Need to know

The flights: Flydubai flies from Dubai to Kilimanjaro airport via Dar es Salaam from Dh1,619 return including taxes. The trip takes 8 hours. 

The trek: Make sure that whatever tour company you select to climb Kilimanjaro, that it is a reputable one. The way to climb successfully would be with experienced guides and porters, from a company committed to quality, safety and an ethical approach to the mountain and its staff. Sonia Nazareth booked a VIP package through Safari Africa. The tour works out to $4,775 (Dh17,538) per person, based on a 4-person booking scheme, for 9 nights on the mountain (including one night before and after the trek at Arusha). The price includes all meals, a head guide, an assistant guide for every 2 trekkers, porters to carry the luggage, a cook and kitchen staff, a dining and mess tent, a sleeping tent set up for 2 persons, a chemical toilet and park entrance fees. The tiny ration of heated water provided for our bath in our makeshift private bathroom stall was the greatest luxury. A standard package, also based on a 4-person booking, works out to $3,050 (Dh11,202) per person.

When to go: You can climb Kili at any time of year, but the best months to ascend  are  January-February and September-October.  Also good are July and August, if you’re tolerant of the colder weather that winter brings.

Do not underestimate the importance of kit. Even if you’re travelling at a relatively pleasant time, be geared up for the cold and the rain.

THE SPECS

GMC Sierra Denali 1500

Engine: 6.2-litre V8

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Power: 420hp

Torque: 623Nm

Price: Dh232,500

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

How to get exposure to gold

Although you can buy gold easily on the Dubai markets, the problem with buying physical bars, coins or jewellery is that you then have storage, security and insurance issues.

A far easier option is to invest in a low-cost exchange traded fund (ETF) that invests in the precious metal instead, for example, ETFS Physical Gold (PHAU) and iShares Physical Gold (SGLN) both track physical gold. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF invests directly in mining companies.

Alternatively, BlackRock Gold & General seeks to achieve long-term capital growth primarily through an actively managed portfolio of gold mining, commodity and precious-metal related shares. Its largest portfolio holdings include gold miners Newcrest Mining, Barrick Gold Corp, Agnico Eagle Mines and the NewMont Goldcorp.

Brave investors could take on the added risk of buying individual gold mining stocks, many of which have performed wonderfully well lately.

London-listed Centamin is up more than 70 per cent in just three months, although in a sign of its volatility, it is down 5 per cent on two years ago. Trans-Siberian Gold, listed on London's alternative investment market (AIM) for small stocks, has seen its share price almost quadruple from 34p to 124p over the same period, but do not assume this kind of runaway growth can continue for long

However, buying individual equities like these is highly risky, as their share prices can crash just as quickly, which isn't what what you want from a supposedly safe haven.

What it means to be a conservationist

Who is Enric Sala?

Enric Sala is an expert on marine conservation and is currently the National Geographic Society's Explorer-in-Residence. His love of the sea started with his childhood in Spain, inspired by the example of the legendary diver Jacques Cousteau. He has been a university professor of Oceanography in the US, as well as working at the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biodiversity and the Bio-Economy. He has dedicated his life to protecting life in the oceans. Enric describes himself as a flexitarian who only eats meat occasionally.

What is biodiversity?

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, all life on earth – including in its forests and oceans – forms a “rich tapestry of interconnecting and interdependent forces”. Biodiversity on earth today is the product of four billion years of evolution and consists of many millions of distinct biological species. The term ‘biodiversity’ is relatively new, popularised since the 1980s and coinciding with an understanding of the growing threats to the natural world including habitat loss, pollution and climate change. The loss of biodiversity itself is dangerous because it contributes to clean, consistent water flows, food security, protection from floods and storms and a stable climate. The natural world can be an ally in combating global climate change but to do so it must be protected. Nations are working to achieve this, including setting targets to be reached by 2020 for the protection of the natural state of 17 per cent of the land and 10 per cent of the oceans. However, these are well short of what is needed, according to experts, with half the land needed to be in a natural state to help avert disaster.

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo

Power: 181hp

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
TOP 10 MOST POLLUTED CITIES

1. Bhiwadi, India
2. Ghaziabad, India
3. Hotan, China
4. Delhi, India
5. Jaunpur, India
6. Faisalabad, Pakistan
7. Noida, India
8. Bahawalpur, Pakistan
9. Peshawar, Pakistan
10. Bagpat, India

Source: IQAir

Fund-raising tips for start-ups

Develop an innovative business concept

Have the ability to differentiate yourself from competitors

Put in place a business continuity plan after Covid-19

Prepare for the worst-case scenario (further lockdowns, long wait for a vaccine, etc.) 

Have enough cash to stay afloat for the next 12 to 18 months

Be creative and innovative to reduce expenses

Be prepared to use Covid-19 as an opportunity for your business

* Tips from Jassim Al Marzooqi and Walid Hanna

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol (V Class); electric motor with 60kW or 90kW powerpack (EQV)
Power: 233hp (V Class, best option); 204hp (EQV, best option)
Torque: 350Nm (V Class, best option); TBA (EQV)
On sale: Mid-2024
Price: TBA

BACK TO ALEXANDRIA

Director: Tamer Ruggli

Starring: Nadine Labaki, Fanny Ardant

Rating: 3.5/5

First Person
Richard Flanagan
Chatto & Windus 

The specs: 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

Price, base / as tested Dh97,600
Engine 1,745cc Milwaukee-Eight v-twin engine
Transmission Six-speed gearbox
Power 78hp @ 5,250rpm
Torque 145Nm @ 3,000rpm
Fuel economy, combined 5.0L / 100km (estimate)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000