Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • French journalist tells of release from captivity in Syria

    Read more

  • South Korea ferry captain defends decision to delay evacuation

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • In pictures: Good Friday celebrated across the globe

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Ukraine: ‘One bloody incident could scupper Geneva deal’

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • World honours Garcia Marquez’s magical literary legacy

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • Algeria's ailing Bouteflika clinches fourth term amid fraud claims

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

Middle east

Is Syria-Qatar rift a 'shrewdly calculated divorce'

©

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2011-08-02

By closing its embassy in Damascus and calling back its ambassador to Doha, Qatar is contributing to Syria’s growing international isolation, says political scientist Karim Sader.

On Monday July 18, Qatar, one of Syria’s solid allies and economic partners, closed its embassy in Damascus “until further notice”. The Qatari ambassador in Syria, Zaed al-Khayarine, returned to Doha, with no further explanation provided.

Gripped by a massive wave of anti-regime protests since March 15, Syria may just have lost a heavyweight diplomatic ally in the region.

‘More than a fleeting spat’

The diplomatic rift between Syria and Qatar has been simmering as the so-called “Arab spring” spred across the Middle East, with anti-government protest movements rocking countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. But the tension between the two countries is now at its boiling point and may contribute to Syria’s growing isolation on the international stage.

“Qatar’s move looks more like a shrewdly calculated divorce from the Syrian regime than a fleeting spat,” explained Karim Sader, an independent political scientist who specialises in the Gulf nations. According to Sader, Qatar “cynically concluded that it is no longer necessary to support the Syria of Bashar al-Assad, because this Syria no longer has the same strategic influence ever since the recent Arab revolts started shifting the power dynamics in the region”.

Already weakened by internal political conflict as well as pressure from the international community in the wake of the Syrian regime’s violent repression of protests, Syria has seen its influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict decline. Since the reconciliation in late April between Hamas – which Qatar supports financially – and Fatah, Syria’s input on the matter has been less frequently solicited. “The reopening of the Rafah border crossing following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also loosened the stranglehold on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip,” Sader said. “That development, combined with the reconciliation of rival Palestinian factions, makes it so that Qatar can now do without the Syrian go-between when dealing with Palestinians.”

Al-Jazeera, a source of Syrian-Qatari discord

The shift in Qatari-Syrian relations has roots in the Arab revolts in which Qatar played a role through the decisive influence of the Qatari-owned news channel Al-Jazeera. “The channel displayed a clear support for the revolutionary movements from the very start of the protests in Tunisia”, explained Claire-Gabrielle Talon, a French political scientist and author of a book on Al-Jazeera, in an interview with weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique. “The channel broadcast images of the revolutions, accompanied by music, and it looked almost like an advertising campaign.” Talon said that until the Arab revolutions of this year, Al-Jazeera had broadcast those types of montages almost exclusively to show Palestinian resistance efforts.

Last week, supporters of Bashar al-Assad stormed the Qatari embassy in Damascus to protest against Al-Jazeera’s “exaggerated and dishonest” coverage of the events in Syria. The incident was an indication that Syrian authorities feel threatened by the channel, which is credited with providing momentum to the uprising against Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and especially to the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

Playing the Sunni card

According to Karim Sader, Qatar seems to be playing “the Sunni card” by cozying up to Saudi Arabia – which would explain why Al-Jazeera has been covering Syria more extensively, compared to its past silence when it came to Syrian repression. “Qatar decided to make overtures toward its ally and fellow Sunni bastion Saudi Arabia…by adjusting its coverage of Syria, which is the main Arab ally of Shia-dominated Iran.”

Sader explained that “the rift with Qatar amounts to a colossal diplomatic loss for Bashar al-Assad, who is losing an ally that made him more palatable” to other nations. Indeed, Qatar had worked significantly toward the improvement of Syria’s image on the international stage in the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which was attributed to Syrian authorities by Hariri’s entourage.

“It’s thanks to Qatar that France, under Nicolas Sarkozy, renewed relations with Damascus,” Sader concluded. “It’s also Qatar that rallied for President Assad to be invited to the July 14 parade [in honour of Bastille Day] in 2008.”
 

Date created : 2011-07-20

  • SYRIA

    Qatari ambassador closes embassy, leaves Damascus

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)