An interview with Ahmad Musalli, professor at the American University of Beirut, to share his opinion on this issue.
Following is a transcript of the interview:
Why has Qatar been at the forefront of supporting Arab Springs even in Egypt, in Tunisia and in Libya and so on and now specially in Syria it seems to want to take a very important role?
Musalli: Well Qatar has been playing an important role…
But not as much as now.
Musalli: Of course, remember that [in] 2006 in the Lebanese war Qatar played an important role. The point here is the following:
Today Qatar is not only playing the role or is been a proxy to the West but to the [Persian] Gulf region as a whole. Qatar now is in the forefront, is the spokesperson for Saudi Arabia. It is playing the role that is given to it. Qatar on its own cannot play any of these roles without the backing of the [Persian] Gulf States specially Saudi Arabia.
Now if you look at it, it is not only Qatar but Turkey as well that made the shift from one camp to another camp which means what we are witnessing is rearrangement of regional alliances. You have Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Islamic movements, a lot of them on one hand. But on the other hand you see the other one emerging, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, with Qatar and all of these [Persian] Gulf States and as well as possibility of Israel. I mean do not forget this.
If you look at dynamic changes that are taking place, Turkey or Qatar stopped condemning Israel. The Israeli issue is put aside, it is not anymore an important role. Egypt is still one has to look very carefully at it, the army made them against the revolution especially in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood do not take the proper role.
What Qatar is trying to do is to infuse and expand the ideology of Wahhabism in different ways I mean for Egyptians to get 25 percent for the Salafists.
The Salafists inside Egypt to get that.
Mualli: This is not only a matter of just daily; it has been supported heavily by [Persian] Gulf states and the two Salafists or Wahhabi states are Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Just one question. Can Qatar balance between its geographic size and its democratic size and its political aspirations?
Mualli: It cannot. Look, Qatar is one of the weakest states although it has a lot of money and so forth but in terms of geostrategy, in terms of the influence of Saudi Arabia, in terms of the geopolitics of the area, it is not really the real actor.
The real actor as I said, they are very limited. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Egypt. These are the main players. Qatar is a spokesman, could play a role that Saudi Arabia as you know is very conservative in showing.
And by the way, this happens after the reconciliation between the Saudi king and the emir of Qatar.
What do you think they agree or they do not disagree in the issues for example of Yemen and Tunisia. What do you think about the roles over there?
Musalli: Look I mean we are talking about; there are no countries that there are fully in agreement or disagreement. I mean Qatar is playing a role that Saudi Arabia wants it to play but also the West or certain Western powers are also helping Qatar to play that role. Turkey is also helping Qatar also to play that role.
So Qatar at this point is a place where a lot of people are investing in to play a role in the Arab world. The rise of Salafism as we have seen it in the Arab world is not only a Qatari issue. It is both Saudi and Qatari and billions of dollars have been spent on both in everywhere in the Arab world, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya, in Lebanon, in Syria and everywhere.
And in that sense yes, there are agreements. The disagreement is that Saudi Arabia wants always Qatar to be under its influence. Qatar is trying to play a role bigger than it has and the margin that it uses to play with is that Qatar is more forward in its attempt to arm resurgence, train people, send immediate money, send military equipment and so forth. But ultimately, the goal is the same. The goal of these groups at this point is to eliminate or destroy the other camp.
I do not agree that Hamas is not moving away from the Axis. Hamas is moving away, it is more becoming a regular part of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Do you think it has taken its natural role?
Musalli: No, it is not playing the role it used to play. They made an agreement with Fatah, with PLO and they are entering PLO. They are giving Israel more time, they are not trying to push for issues that are raised and I think Hamas at this point is under the control of the other-I do not want to say control- but is under the influence of other camp and they are moving out of the Syrian context or the Hezbollah, Syrian, Iranian context and they are getting more closer to the other part where now Hamas is more ready to entertain a settlement if that is to happen with the Israel through the PLO and Mahmoud Abass.
So in that sense Qatar is playing a role that other countries wanted to play.
So they want to see this outcome
Musalli: Qatar is happy to play that role because it is giving it visibility and ability to move back and forth.
I want to ask you about the US role in Qatar, the fact that we have the biggest military base inside Qatar. Do you think that would, is it a show of the US support for this state?
Musalli: I think it is very important to bring in Bahrain. Bahrain was a lesson to the revolutionaries or those who wanted to change or democratize the system that in the [Persian] Gulf there is no change and that will be repressed, not only by the system that exists but with the GCC in general, number one.
Number two, the US is guarantying the security of all these states and therefore they do not intend on any reform. I mean you have the two states, most dictatorial states; Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to teach democracy or human rights to other countries that at least the others have more human rights, personal rights, religious rights and other rights.
But anyway the point is they feel secure, number one as I said they will defend each other system. Bahrain I think made the others think very seriously whether want to revolt against such system and this is Saudi Arabia moving troops and there are others also, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait as I remember.
How about Yemen, what to happen? The political solution, does that also help?
Musalli: Look, Yemen is not finished and will not be finished except in the interest of Saudi Arabia and this is why the solution is much delayed now. Saleh is still there, Saleh is still ruling. He still wants to fight the Houthis, he still wants to do this and that and there is now seems a new way of propping up Saleh and the same is happening in Egypt with President Mubarak, if you look. I mean they are trying now again to bring into life in one way or another or at least to keep this system. Therefore the [Persian] Gulf is protected by the USA, they have the largest naval and airbase.
The fact that you said, you mentioned that Qatar was spokesperson of Saudi Arabia and it seems that from what you are saying is also spokesperson for the US. So do you think it hasn't been successful when it comes to media and in this fact being a spokesperson?
Musalli: No, it has been very successful. It has played its role very well. I mean to be honest about it and even in Jazirah they have some changes within because now they want different messages to send it out and the head of the Jazirah in some way…
We are running out of time. But is it immune? Is Qatar or isn't it?
Musalli: No, nobody is immune, no country is immune, as you said I agree with it but this requires strong will from the inside and the ability to penetrate the system.
Now the [Persian] Gulf is very much as you say it, secured and the security probably is more impressive than any period before.