Sunday, June 18
When Qatari money talks nobody walks least of all the British
From Tom Sykes' The British Establishment Has a Qatar Problem, June 18, Daily Beast:
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the former head of the Qatar Investment Authority, said last year that Qatari investment into the U.K. to date amounted to £30 billion, and that London was the preferred destination.
The al-Thani’s privileged position at the heart of British society will truly be in the public eye next week, when they sit alongside the Queen in the Royal box at Royal Ascot, the legendary three-day horse race meeting whose patron is none other than Her Majesty, who arrives at the event each day in a horse-drawn carriage, to great fanfare and attention.
The al-Thanis have bought their way into the heart of society by sponsoring Royal Ascot to the tune of many millions in prize money and corporate branding through the QIPCO holding company which is now one of Royal Ascot’s most important financial backers.
While locals and the immigrant laborers building the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup are suffering back home, with food prices soaring, the massive financial taps of international Qatari finance are not remotely likely to be turned off as a result of the blockade.
Thomas W. Lippman, an expert on the region at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told the Daily Beast: “Qatar exports almost all its natural gas to Europe or Japan and those shipments will continue, as will payments for them, so the Qataris will still have plenty of money. Some shipping routes are affected—freight destined for Qatar will now be transshipped through Oman rather than the U.A.E.—but that will stabilize in a few days as carriers adjust.”
Lippman argues that the most important regional impact of the embargo is the implicit collapse of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. The GCC was established in 1981.
“There seems to be no doubt that the strategic balance of the Gulf has been altered,” Lippman says. “Iran and Turkey have lined up behind Qatar, against the U.A.E. and the Saudis. What this means for Iranian-Turkish cooperation in Syria and Kurdistan remains to be seen. But it's no longer possible to pretend that the GCC is a cohesive Sunni alliance against a truculent Iran. On that score, the Saudis seem to have overplayed their hand because only Iran benefits.”
Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have all tried to retain some relationship with Iran, a Shia country diametrically opposed to Sunni Saudi Arabia. But Qatar has done so perhaps with the least subtlety.
David Ottaway, a Saudi expert and Woodrow Wilson Middle East Fellow, told the Daily Beast: “Can the West afford to isolate Qatar? No. The Saudis and the Emiratis are trying to drag the United States into their feud with the Muslim Brotherhood. They are trying to get Trump to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. But his advisers are saying no, don’t do it.”
The location of the al-Thanis at the Queen’s side next week at Royal Ascot, Ottaway says, merely brings home that point.
“It certainly points out the contradictions between the U.K. interest and the Saudi interest,” he says. “In the Qataris, they don’t have common enemies.”