Qatari public unhappy with regime ties to Tehran
Most Qataris who participated in a recent poll said they would like to see a compromise solution to the dispute in which Saudi Arabia and its regional allies severed ties with Doha.
On October 2, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy released the results of a survey by a leading professional Arab market research firm that found that an overwhelming majority of Qatari respondents said they would like to see the conflict, which began in early June, resolved in an “amicable” manner: 81% of those surveyed said they supported a compromise in which all sides in the dispute agree to concessions.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar over what the quartet of countries described as Doha’s interference in their countries’ internal affairs and its support for radical groups, such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Qatari government denied the allegations.
The survey’s findings were released at a time when Qatar has been edging closer to Iran, one of the boycotting countries’ main points of contention with the Doha leadership.
Following an attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in January 2016, Riyadh and several other regional countries, including Qatar, severed diplomatic ties with Iran. However, on August 23, Qatar announced that it would reinstate full diplomatic ties with Tehran, going against one of the quartet of countries’ chief demands for negotiations to commence with Qatar.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Doha on October 3 for talks with the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al- Thani, the first visit by an Iranian official to the tiny Gulf state since the crisis began.
Most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members view Iran as a destabilising force due to its support of radical Islamist militias, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition that supports the country’s internationally recognised government.
The survey found that most Qataris asked said they were opposed to Iran’s regional policies.
Tehran’s regional proxies fare worse. The survey results indicated that “Hezbollah and the Houthis of Yemen get negative ratings from fully 90% of Qatar’s adult population and a narrow majority (53%) of Qataris even say that ‘the most important issue in this situation is to find the maximum degree of Arab cooperation against Iran,’” the institute said.
Despite the Doha government’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qataris in general reportedly have a negative view of the group, which is banned in several GCC countries. The survey’s findings stated that Qataris disapprove of the government’s support of Muslim Brotherhood 56% to 41%.
The survey advised that Sheikh Tamim, to preserve his domestic popularity, should find a “middle-ground exit” from the crisis and distance himself and his government from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.