Saudi-UAE Ultimatum to Qatar: Cut Ties with Iran, Muslim Brothers, Hamas
Shortly before US President Donald Trump’s epic meeting in Riyadh on May 21 with Arab and Muslim rulers, the Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani went behind their backs with a furtive scheme for aborting the US-Saudi Sunni bloc against Shiite Iran, before it was born.
A week earlier, Qatar’s foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani flew secretly to Tehran DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report. He was received on the spot by the Iranian powerhouse, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iranian forces in Iraq and Syria. They put their heads together on a plan for torpedoing US operations in the two conflicted countries.
They also discussed Doha’s reward for its cooperation.
Qatar’s rulers had no qualms about scheming against Washington, even though America’s biggest air base in the Gulf region is located at Al Udeid southwest of Doha, their capital. Neither did they miss shaking hands with Trump in Riyadh.
The Qatari rift with Saudi Arabia finally burst into the open shortly after President Trump ended his Middle East trip. On May 25, an article in Qatar’s state-run news agency quoted the emir as criticizing the US, Saudi Arabia and their “client states” for attempting to stir up tensions with the “Islamic power” – Iran. Qatari’s foreign minister was also quoted as announcing the withdrawal of its ambassadors from Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Later, Doha claimed the agency had been hacked and those statements were never made. But the row among the Arab Gulf states continued to escalate nonetheless. Saudi media accused Qatar of “betraying” its Arab brothers, stabbing them in the back when they staged groundbreaking events to demonstrate their unity.
The Saudis and the UAE then blocked Qatari websites and broadcasters.
Behind the public recriminations, DEBKA Weekly’s sources report King Salman and the UAE ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan delivered a firm ultimatum to the Qatari emir. He was warned of stiff penalties unless he toed the line and did the following:
1. Broke off all military and intelligence ties with Tehran.
2. Abrogated all the agreements he reached with Tehran – not only with regard to Syria and Iraq, but also other Arab countries, especially Libya.
3. Cancelled all the benefits and asylum arrangements Qatar extended to Muslim Brotherhood activists and deported them forthwith.
4. Severed Qatar’s ties with the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas group ruling the Gaza Strip and denied their leaders residence permits in Doha with their families. This week King Salman asked Egyptian President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi to refuse passage through Cairo to Hamas’ new political bureau chief Ismail Haniyah, who was planning to move out of Gaza and settle in Doha with his family.
The Saudi-UAE warning to the Qatari emir did not specify the penalties he faced for disobedience. But our sources in the Gulf disclosed that a small-scale military operation against a Qatari target might be on the cards. Neither did they rule out an engineered coup d’etat.
Wednesday, May 31, the Qatari emir traveled to Kuwait to ask its ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to act as mediator in his quarrel with the Saudis.