Published On: Wed, Mar 12th, 2014
MainBlock / Politics & Strategy | By bmcsr | عدد المشاهدات 43,241

20,000 Houthis given Qatari Citizenship

Our documents show that Qatar has been funding more than 20 thousand members of the Houthis, providing them with Qatari citizenship. Once these Houthies got their citizenship it became a lot easier for them to travel and make bank accounts in other countries, using their Qatari passport. Providing them with an easy route for any financial support from the outsides, specifically Iran. Some of these groups are now training in both Libya and Syria and entering Syria under the Qatari passport so that they would face no opposition from the rebels in the region.

Lately Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar after alleging that it has been meddling in their internal affairs.

A joint statement said Qatar had failed to implement a security accord signed last year stipulating non-interference.

The joint statement said the three countries had made “major efforts to convince Qatar” to implement a November 2013 agreement not to back “anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals – via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media”.

The recall of the ambassadors from Doha was therefore necessary to ensure “security and stability”.

Oil- and gas-rich Qatar has been an increasingly vocal diplomatic player. It strongly supported Egypt’s now-ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and is a key backer of Islamist radical groups in Syria.

The state is home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Qatar is also seen as a major financial and diplomatic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement which is banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

On Monday, a Qatari citizen received a seven-year jail sentence in the UAE for supporting an Islamist political society, al-Islah, which prosecutors assert is a local branch of the Egypt-based Brotherhood.

Our documents show that Qatar has been funding more than 20 thousand members of the Houthis, providing them with Qatari citizenship.

Qatar is currently playing an important political role in Yemen, extending the one that it played during the 1994 war between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and then-Vice President Ali Salim al-Beidh — who were both partners in the same Yemeni national unity government — and their respective allies. That role was resurrected during the Yemeni government’s war against the Houthis, who constituted a suitable avenue for Qatar’s return to the Yemeni arena. During 2007 and 2008, Qatar was the prominent influence broker in the most important of Yemeni issues, whereby it succeeded in convincing the Houthis to endorse its role. Qatar’s initiative to end the war between the state and the Houthis in 2008 led to the latter’s re-emergence, and to the former president later describing the accord reached as the “Dokha (dizziness) Accord” instead of the Doha Accord, to symbolize his, and the majority of Yemeni factions, including the government’s, rejection of Qatari involvement — which made of the Houthis a faction equal in importance to the state.

It would seem that Qatar knew, at the time, the level of influence that Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar — the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated adviser to the current Yemeni president, who was also Saleh’s right-hand man before defecting from his ranks in March 2011 — had, because he represented the government of Sanaa during Qatari-sponsored talks with the Houthis. As a result, Doha endeavored to establish strong relations with the man, resulting in Qatar standing by his side, for it to exploit him on the Yemeni internal scene, especially following the former Yemeni president’s refusal to attend the Gaza Summit meeting held on Jan. 16, 2009, in Doha — a refusal that greatly complicated his relationship with Qatar.

The Arab revolutions that began in 2011 gave Qatar a golden opportunity to fully enter the fray and provide abundant financial, media and political support to the Yemeni opposition, which is mostly composed of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar’s foreign minister was the first international party who called on the former president to step down, a demand to which Saleh responded, in front of a huge crowd of supporters, during his Sabeen Square speech on April 8, 2011, when he said, “We derive our legitimacy from the strength of our glorious Yemeni people, not from Qatar, whose initiative we reject.”

In that manner, Qatar succeeded in penetrating Yemeni political affairs, disregarding all previously established rules of political action there, and giving itself the ability to greatly and dangerously affect Yemeni and Saudi affairs.

Prior to Hadi’s visit to Doha, the Saudi press had indicated that the historical Qatari ally, the Muslim Brotherhood, was putting pressure on Hadi to visit Doha. This reflects Saudi dissatisfaction with Hadi’s visits to Doha, as well as signals that Riyadh’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood had deteriorated and that Qatar was vigorously replacing it on the scene.

Qatar’s role in Yemen can be likened to breathing air. Its effects are visible without it being palpable. Yet, it sometimes gains exceptional prominence such as when Qatar funded the establishment of a Yemeni television station affiliated with one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s factions in Yemen: the Yemen Youth Channel.

It seems that Doha is resolute on maintaining its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, following the obvious differences in opinion it had with Riyadh concerning the current events in Egypt, which led to the Muslim Brotherhood’s overthrow. The Saudi stance led to anger among the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood’s ranks and bolstered their ties with Qatar, to the point where Nobel prize winner and prominent Yemeni activist, Tawakkol Karman — who has strong relations with Doha — went to Cairo on Aug. 4 to support the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but was stopped by Egyptian authorities and sent back to Sanaa aboard the same plane she arrived on. She was preceded by Al Jazeera’s reporter in Sanaa, Ahmad al-Shalafi, who was sent back to Yemen after covering the Rabia al-Adawiya events. Together, they are two of the most prominent Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated activists in Yemen, who also have very deep ties to Qatar.

More significant even is Doha’s relationship with the Ahmar family, the largest tribal family in Yemen, and the most important historical ally that Saudi Arabia has in Yemen. After Al Jazeera highlighted Hamid al-Ahmar’s opposition to Saleh’s regime, analysts began talking about Hamid becoming Qatar’s go-to man in Yemen, as the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper published. This came at a time when Saleh was accusing Qatar’s allies who are part of the “Congregation for Reform” — individuals or parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood — of standing behind the attempt on his life and members of his regime in what has come to be known as the Presidential Palace incident that took place on June 3, 2011.

Details about the matter remain sketchy. What is certain, however, is that traditional Muslim Brotherhood forces in the capital of the country have maintained their relationship with Saudi Arabia, while Qatar has expanded its relations with Muslim Brotherhood forces in Yemen’s central areas — Ta’izz — through bolstering contacts with its Islamic figures. These figures, contrary to Muslim Brotherhood members in the capital, never had close and historic relations with Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, if the reports that Doha donated $80 million to the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood turn out to be true. It also would explain the level of spending during organized demonstrations as well as the money expended to buy loyalties during the revolutionary period against Saleh’s regime and the subsequent institutionalization of the party.

Our documents show that Qatar has been funding more than 20 thousand members of the Houthis, providing them with Qatari citizenship. Once these Houthies got their citizenship it became a lot easier for them to travel and make bank accounts in other countries, using their Qatari passport. Providing them with an easy route for any financial support from the outsides, specifically Iran. Some of these groups are now training in both Libya and Syria and entering Syria under the Qatari passport so that they would face no opposition from the rebels in the region. Documents show that they joined Daesh which is classified as  terrorist organisation.

Ahmar is still the most powerful Yemeni figure after the president. He is ruefully and flexibly holding a center line between Riyadh and Doha, both of which did not express disagreement to his role, except when he adopted a stance in favor of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He did this without exposing Riyadh’s position to attack, cognizant of the fact that Saudi Arabia was the source of his power and influence inside Yemen, at least during Saleh’s era. Furthermore, Hadi, in a remarkable move, took him along when he visited Doha. As a result, if he did resolve to stand on Qatar’s side, then Saudi Arabia would have been dealt a fatal blow to the traditional alliance by which it ruled Yemen for decades.

Yemen perhaps does not hold great importance for Doha, but its geographical location on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, and it being an arena and extension for many of the events occurring in the region, explains the level of attention that Doha is giving Sanaa.

Qatar knows that Saudi Arabia’s policy in Yemen is one of containing the threat through all means available, because Yemen is the country that most affects its security. Doha seems to have taken advantage of Riyadh’s inability to keep successfully managing the Yemeni dossier. Saudi reliance on Yemen’s poverty and the latter’s need for financial support to the point of gambling on the weakness of the Yemeni state, its rulers’ and opposition’s utter shameful and dishonourable dependence on Riyadh for decades has led Riyadh to disregard offering concessions of any type to maintain its good reputation among the Yemeni populace. This is true even among those who object to Doha’s interference in their country’s affairs.

Qatar is but one of many countries that have fought fierce battles — sometimes armed conflicts through local proxies — to gain a better foothold in Yemen. At a time when Doha, Riyadh, Tehran and Ankara’s agendas compete over Yemen, the ordinary Yemeni citizen finds himself lacking any meaningful nationalist agenda for his country. This is not new to Yemen, however, where most of the ruling class is but an extension of regional and international powers whose agendas contrast and are opposite to purely Yemeni aspirations or sensitivities. The difference this time though is the presence of a few new and powerful players, Qatar being one of them.