Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani’s comments come at counter-terrorism event, where experts said war against IS far from over
Saudi Arabia’s policies in Yemen and Lebanon are fracturing the Middle East where authoritarian rule threatens to create an environment perfect for terrorism, Qatar’s foreign minister said at a conference in London on Thursday.
The policies have created a “humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, divided the Gulf states by attacking Qatar without an exit strategy and tried to pressurise the prime minister of Lebanon to resign will just leave a power vacuum,” Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told journalists.
“It has all been counterproductive to the stability of the region.”
Thani was speaking at the conference organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) which brought together experts to discuss the threat of terrorism with the “gradual defeat” of the Islamic State (IS) group.
And the event comes against a backdrop of even greater turbulence in the region on top of year-long wars already raging in Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The months-old Gulf rift pitting Qatar against the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt – which accuse Doha of sponsoring terrorism – continues to unfold as two organisations and 11 individuals, including Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, were added to the quartet’s terrorist list on Thursday.
Meanwhile, recent attention has been on Saudi Arabia where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s anti-corruption sweep, paired with Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation from Riyadh – and then backtrack this week from Beirut – have shaken things up so much that seasoned analysts say anything is possible.
Thani’s appearance, in which he pledged Qatar’s commitment to “eradicating terrorism of all kinds”, is the latest in a series of conferences and events in London, presided over by Gulf ministers as their diplomatic spat is battled out publicly.
“I come from a region brimming with extremism,” Al Thani told the audience. “Although the Middle East was once a region of peace and co-existence, it has unfortunately been tranferred into a region of terrorist and authoritarians where extremism flourishes.”
“So who is the enemy and what is the root cause of terrorism? Tyranny, authoritarianism and the absence of justice.”
Qatar is run by the royal family. The government has long-promised elections of the Shura Council, a consultative body now appointed by decree without legislative authority. Earlier this month, leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said they would take place in 2019.
Amid the regional tumult and diplomatic disputes, the anti-IS coalition’s recent victories in Mosul and Raqqa may have seemed a bright spot.
But the true defeat of IS, said several experts on Thursday, is far off: the group threatens to re-emerge as the insurgency movement from which it started while the drivers of terrorism across the Middle East and North Africa continue to be fuelled.
“I don’t think we are anywhere near looking at an after-Daesh reality,” said Shiraz Maher, Deputy Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London, referring to the Arabic name for IS.
“Daesh is here, it’s very much remaining as a player on the ground,” he said.