Risk of coup in Qatar is real: academic

June 13, 2017 - 13:29

TEHRAN - A professor of political science at Georgetown University believes the possibility of a Saudi-engineered coup in Qatar is “real”.

“The risk of a coup d'état is real,” Shireen Hunter tells the Tehran Times.

Following is the text of the interview: 

Q: What are the real reasons behind the decision of some Arab states to cut ties with Qatar?

A: It is difficult to attribute the Arab state's decision regarding cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar to a single factor. Clearly, Saudi and the UAE pressure has been important. But there are also other factors. First, historically, unlike Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or to be precise Abu Dhabi, Qatar has had reasonable relations with Iran.


Thirdly, the UAE wants to weaken Qatar and in particular convince America to move its base from there to the UAE.Therefore Qatar could not have been happy with escalating tension between the GCC and Iran. Second. In general, Qatar, despite its alliance with the West, especially America, has followed a relatively independent foreign policy. This has meant keeping relatively good relations with Iran, close cooperation with Turkey, and trying to coopt Islamist groups such as HAMAS and the Muslim Brotherhood. All these policies are anathema to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Egypt is also against the Islamists. Thirdly, the UAE wants to weaken Qatar and in particular convince America to move its base from there to the UAE. Lastly all the Arab Sheikhdoms have long-standing tribal, family and other rivalries and competitions. In short the question of Iran is only one cause of these recent disputes with Qatar.

Q: How far will the recent crisis go and should we expect Qatar to turn its back on Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood?
A: The continuation of the crisis could result in the dissolution of the GCC and could increase the risk of region-wide confrontation. However, most probably, Arabs either by persuasion or threat will convince Qatar to rejoin the fold. The United States, too, most probably will advice Qatar to do the same.

Q: Should we expect an effort by Saudi Arabia to organize a coup plot in Qatar if the country does not live up to the expectations of Riyadh?

A: The risk of a coup d'état is real. In fact, Qatar in its short history as an independent state has faced several coup d'états. The current Emir has enemies within his family who could be persuaded by others to try to unseat him.

Q: What approach should Iran take in order to protect its national interests?

A: In my view, Iran should stay out of the Arabs' disputes altogether. Ultimately, Arabs will make peace with one other, call each other brothers and will blame Iran for all their problems. Under present conditions, Iran should also be careful to not provide any excuses for possible U.S. action against itself. Saudi Arabia and the UAE desperately want America to attack Iran. But Iran must make sure that it does not provide any excuses for the U.S. to do so.

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