Or so argues Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, in a recent op-ed for Foreign Policy. For all the regional isolation Qatar has endured as a result of the Gulf-imposed blockade, he argues, its international reputation has been bolstered in comparison to those of its neighbors. While Saudi Arabia continues to decimate the Yemeni population and imprison human rights activists, Qatar appears to be busy decreasing – however modestly – its involvement in Syria, signing human rights treaties, and spending lavishly on a relentless PR campaign, termed a ‘charm offensive’ by The New York Times. Most decisive of all, writes Hassan, is that Qatar has yet to bow to any of the demands made by the ‘anti-Qatar quartet’:
A year on […] Qatar has not only weathered the storm — it also appears to have emerged as the main winner of the conflict.
The anti-Qatar quartet failed in its mission of forcing Qatar to accept its 13 demands, which included shutting down Al Jazeera and other media outlets said to be funded by Doha, and to cease support for various regional Islamist groups, ostensibly both Sunni and Shiite. The Qataris were also accused of what its critics labeled as treacherous support for the Houthis, a party of the Yemen war against which Doha was fighting.
But the demands were clearly designed to be too much for Doha to immediately accept. Senior Gulf officials involved in the crisis even made it clear early on that the Saudi camp was unconvinced that Qatar, even if it engaged with the demands, would genuinely change its behavior. The quartet’s real goal was to essentially make Qatar a vassal state unable to carry out any independent foreign policy. To that end, the Saudi camp initiated a massive public relations effort in Western capitals to increase diplomatic pressure on Qatar and turn public opinion against it.
But, by those measures, the crisis has so far played out in Qatar’s favor.