Qatari opposition sees ‘consensus candidate’ for emir – Middle East

Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh (R) and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit:REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A leading voice in Qatar’s political opposition has thrown his support behind an emerging contender for emir, asserting that new leadership in Doha is the only way to resolve a regional crisis over its policies.

Khalid al-Hail, currently exiled in London after being imprisoned and tortured by the government in 2014, told The Jerusalem Post that a consensus candidate has emerged in his conversations with those in Doha’s political class seeking an end to the current Qatari regime.

That figure – Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani – recently met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at his summer home in Morocco, and the nation’s crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman.

Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad, has in recent years reinforced his country’s support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to the ire of Sunni powers and the United States.

As a result, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar on June 5. Together they refuse to normalize ties until Doha changes course, and pivots from its alliance with Iran.

The crisis has shaken Qatar’s economy and the power dynamics of the region, striking fear in some that rising tensions there may lead to an armed conflict.

“I consider it a long-term crisis, specifically because the Qatari government refuses to respond and cooperate with the international community in order to reach a resolution,” Hail said in a phone interview from London, speaking through his translator. “The only possible scenario [to end the crisis] is a new emir – and I don’t see an imminent compromise.”

Yet Hail suggested Abdullah bin Ali might be that candidate, eventually.

“He is an accepted personality both in the country and in the region, and therefore there are many voices in Qatar who support this person to be appointed the next emir in the country,” Hail said.

A former businessman, Hail is organizing a conference on September 14 in London meant to highlight the fact that a Qatari political opposition exists – stifled “by its inability to speak out on state-run media platforms,” such as Al Jazeera.

According to one spokesman, the conference will bring together political figures, policy-makers, academics, commentators and Qataris to discuss democracy, human rights, press freedom and counterterrorism in Qatar.

“The Qatari regime is a brutal police state based on an absolute monarchy system, which means it is a one-man show,” Hail said of Tamim bin Hamad. “He breached his agreement with me personally, when he put me in jail and tortured me, after giving me his word that I would be fine and free to express my views. He betrayed me, and that is his trend with many Qataris.”

Hail offered praise for US President Donald Trump, whose administration has offered mixed signals of late on whether the Qatari government is friend or foe. Qatar is home to the largest US base in the Middle East.

“I see that Trump is serious about combating terrorism, and I think that Qatar has become an obstacle to his mission to eradicate terrorism,” Hail said. “But I also see that the US has interests inside Qatar.”

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