AJCS Director: 13th Al Jazeera Forum Discussed Region Affairs without Dictation or Imposition

Dr. Mohammed Mukhtar Al Khalil, the Director of Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, delivered the closing remarks of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum held in Doha on April 27th-28th under the theme “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence,” in which he expressed  his thanks and appreciation to all those who participated in the event. The 13th Al Jazeera Forum featured 7 plenary sessions and 3 parallel session, which touched on all regional and international issues related to the current Gulf crisis between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the other.

Al Khalil also expressed his gratitude to the state of Qatar for hosting the event without any dictation or imposition in relation to the selection of the discussion topics and worldwide participants. The event brought together a wide number of researchers, media professionals and politicians with different intellectual and political orientations only to exchange views on issues of interest to the regional and international public opinion. Rules of objectivity, balance and respect for the opinions and the other opinions were taken into account throughout the discussions.

Seventh Session: The Gulf’s Future Role in Reshaping Power Balances in the Middle East

As part of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, held in Doha on 27 and 28 April 2019 under the theme “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Role“, the forum’s seventh and final session discussed the future of the Gulf role in reshaping the balance of power in the Middle East.

Steven Wright, Professor of Public Relations at Hamad bin Khalifa University (Qatar), pointed out that the rebalancing of the Saudi-UAE position cannot be achieved in the short term, explaining that the Saudi-UAE will continue with their outlook on the region and that this outlook may shape their future policies that increased the distance between them and Qatar.

Wright said: “There is an expansive policy pursued by the Saudi-UAE axis that falls under what can be called ‘traditional authoritarianism’. This policy diverges from Qatar’s policies that support emancipation of the peoples, democratization, and provision of greater role for the youth in the construction process.” He pointed out that the contradiction of Saudi-UAE policies with those of Qatar has reached an advanced stage, making this axis fiercely hostile to Qatar. He stressed that American influence and the conflict with Iran cannot be excluded from what is happening in the region.

Wright pointed to the role of economic changes and their effects on the region, especially with the development of shale oil in the United States and the impact this may have on the Gulf region that mainly depends on the export of oil. Wright explained that the decline of US influence in the region is due to its reliance on rock oil, considering that the decline of the American role in the regions may lead to the expansion of Chinese influence.

For his part, Mamdouh Salameh, oil economist, focused on the emergence of the Chinese currency for the “petro yuan” oil transactions and how the emergence of this currency caused confusion to the global market and impacted the Gulf market in particular. He said that by launching its new currency, China wants to reflect its economic strength by affecting the Gulf economy and selling oil to the world. Addressing Gulf countries, Mamdouh said: “You have to drop your peg to the dollar, because you have enough oil to cover your currencies. You have to do that because America manipulates oil prices.” Referring to Qatar’s withdrawal from the OPEC, he said: “Qatar is acting as an accomplished businessman, and its withdrawal may be in order to avoid Saudi-UAE provocations in the organization.”

Hani Basoos, Professor of Political Science at Sultan Qaboos University (Oman), said that the Gulf region is an investment zone and a focus of the world, adding that changes and balances that take place in this region cannot be removed from American intervention. He added that there are three main axes reflecting the struggle for hegemony in the region: Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, adding that the conflict is based on three rules: relations and interests, security concerns, and ideology and governance.

Basoos stressed that the United States of America is silent about the wars and provocations instigated by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, in return for some interests, including Saudi Arabia’s securing the oil market following the sanctions imposed on Iran. He said that reaching a solution to the Gulf crisis in the long term requires that Oman and Kuwait continue their efforts in this regard to ensure at least the lowest level of convergence.

Walid Al-Zubeidi, Iraqi political analyst, stressed that the reality of the region is not bright or reassuring. He said that the most important and most important goal of the United States in the region is to protect Israel. All that is happening is mainly to protect Israel. “We have invaded Iraq for the security of Israel,” he said. Al-Zubeidi concluded his speech by saying: The current Arab differences clearly lead to only one path, namely the path of normalization with Israel and providing security for it.

Sixth Session: Arab and Global Media and the Dilemma of Political Crime

As part of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, held in Doha on 27 and 28 April 2019 under the title “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence”, the forum’s sixth session, entitled “Arab and Global Media and the Dilemma of Political Crime“, featured academics and investigative journalists who discussed the challenges facing the media and the press in uncovering political crime, pointing to the hegemony of regimes over media policies and the turning of journalists into enemies and targets or liquidation in the Arab world. They confirmed that Al Jazeera has been unique in its search for the truth though its attractive and interesting investigation on the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in his country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.

Hashem Hasan Al-Tamimi, Dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Baghdad, said: “There is no description for political crime under Arab legislation, except in criminal articles,” noting that under Arab legislation, the accused in political crime is the journalist, not the government or authorities, and that the core problem with the Arab media is that the media is one-way and always reflects the policies of the country in which they operate. Hassan stressed that Al Jazeera was unique in searching for the truth about the murder of Khashoggi by adopting an attractive and exciting survey method.

For her part, Jessikka Aro, Journalist from Finland, spoke about her experience saying that four years ago, she started writing about Russia and was met with a major attack on social media from persons writing under aliases in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies. She said: “I have faced a series of campaigns with more than 250 false news reports from Russia claiming that I am a criminal, not a journalist. Some have even sent me threats of imprisonment and murder.” She pointed out that she revealed these campaigns to the public, and stressed the importance of confronting them, or else the dictators will continue their approach of hunting journalists.

On her part, Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of International Press Institute, said: “The issue of Khashoggi’s murder and how it was handled by US President Donald Trump made us feel that our free and values-based world was collapsing. Khashoggi’s case raised those fears.”

She pointed to the problems of the current world order, where countries are unable to enforce their policies on other countries, and shed light on the trial held by the United States against the assassins who murdered the Chilean ambassador on its soil. She also called for exerting efforts to bring the killers of Khashoggi to trial in US courts, regarding the crime a violation of the freedom of opinion and expression as per the first amendment in the US Constitution.

On his part, Salah Negm, Director of News at Al Jazeera English, said: “Al Jazeera English was keen to carry highly accurate investigations before taking the lead of media coverage on Khashoggi’s death, and stressed the need to determine collective responsibility and identify the framework of the crime and how it is not limited to just one or two persons.” He added: “Once you start to conduct investigation and follow-up on such crimes, the regimes try to assassinate you or at least tarnish your reputation through smear campaigns, like attacking Al Jazeera and several of its journalists with a lot of fabricated stories.”

He noted that those who committed a political crime in the past were trying to hide it, but now they want it be known to raise the fear of the media and the people who follow such crimes.

Fifth Session: The Challenges of US Policy in the Middle East: The Gulf – Iran – Israel

Experts and academics discussed the US policy in the Middle East as well the challenges associated with this policy either towards the Gulf States, Israel or Iran. This came during the fifth session of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, which was held in Doha on April 27th-28th under the theme “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence.” The participating experts questioned the credibility of the US administration being a strong and independent peace partner in resolving the Palestinian cause. They concluded that the region is currently going through a state of strategic vulnerability.

Mohammed Cherkaoui, Senior Researcher at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies (AJCS), stated that the US foreign policy under President Donald Trump is full of paradoxes. The situation looks complex with the emerging trade war against China and the sanctions imposed on Iran, the thing that indicates how confused this administration is. Trump’s decisions, most recently about the Golan, have raised doubts about the credibility of the US administration as a strong and independent peace partner.

Cherkaoui added that Trump’s positions are lacking in sobriety. It moves from one strategy to another and shifts from one opinion to another even over the same single issue. Trump’s policy is tied to the monopoly of political decision-making. This runs counter to the presidency institution and even to the Democrats in Congress.

Commenting on the US policies towards the Middle East, Jordanian political writer and analyst Omar Ayasra stated that these policies seem wild when it comes to the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem in particular. That has been reflected in Trump’s statement “Settle it for Israel.” He added that Trump is not the only reason for what befalls us; there is another reason relating to the “acceptance factor,” under which we accept whatever actions he takes. This made us vulnerable to Trump’s policies and desires.

Ayasra explained that the US administration creates internal conflicts to continue to make use of the current situation in its favor. Therefore, they refuse or turn a deaf ear to the Kuwaiti voice of wisdom to settle issues through diplomacy. Despite the talks about  Russian and Chinese expansion and the US attempts to halt it, the United States is still taking full control of the entire region, and it employs both Saudi Arabia and UAE to serve the interests of Israel.

Researcher on Palestinian affairs Mahmoud Jaraba stated that there are three main pillars in the region: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran. The US foreign policy is centered about those pillars because they shape the overall orientation of the entire region. The American vision is no longer focused on the Two-State Solution, the settlement or the Palestinian right of return. These issues are not laid on the Trump administration’s table. The new US policy aims at finding unilateral solutions and imposing them on the Palestinian side. The US administration seeks also to weaken the Palestinian Authority by blocking aid to force it to engage in unconditional negotiations with the Israelis, including a settlement to accept the town of Abu Dis as a capital of a Palestinian state.

Jaraba added that the peace strategy is now reversed. Instead of establishing peace and then accepting normalization with Israel as a price for this option, some GCC countries are currently putting pressures on the Palestinians to impose peace on them without any guarantees or solutions. Israel has been very successful in passing this vision.

Seyed Mohammad Marandi said that the new US administration created problems with Russia, China and other countries in African and Latin America. The most recent consequence of this policy was the starvation of the Venezuelan people. He added that the Trump administration’s policies of escalation resulted in the isolation of the United States and rather created widespread tensions across the region. In spite of its current attempts to forge new alliances in the region to pass strategic projects, this administration is faced with serious challenges particularly as it runs out of time.

Fourth Session: The Arms Race in the Middle East: Drivers and Trajectories

Experts and academics have agreed that the arms race has recently grown intense in the Middle East, warning that the entry of groups and non-state parties into this race threatens to add more tension in a region already plagued with crises and conflicts.

As part of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum held in Doha on April 27th-28th, participants in the forum’s fourth session, entitled “The Arms Race in the Middle East: Drivers and Trajectories“, pointed out that Saudi Arabia ranks first as the largest importer of weapons in the world, stressing that the country’s expenditures do not necessarily reflect real military capabilities, as it has achieved very little victory in the war in Yemen that has now entered its fourth year.

Reviewing the report issued by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on arms sales in the world, Peter Wiseman, senior researcher at the institute, explained that military expenditures have increased in the past 15 years, with a dramatic increase in the last five years. The report pointed out that Saudi Arabia ranked the third globally in military spending after the United States and China, and ranked first in the Arab world.

He stated that Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of weapons in the world until 2018, followed by Egypt and the UAE, noting that the large expenditure on arms purchases does not reflect real military capabilities in training, leadership, quality of weapons, or suitability to objectives. He wondered whether the purchase was only meant for showing off or bragging rather than actual usage.  

He noted a change that he described as “big” in the Gulf region, where the purchase of arms is no longer for bragging; Saudi Arabia and the UAE are using them in Yemen, Syria, and Libya now. Wiseman then doubted the feasibility of military expenditures, and wondered about the vision of the Saudi leaders in this regard now that their inability to win in Yemen has been proven.

For his part, Murat Yeşiltaş, director of security studies at SETA Foundation (Turkey), said: “It is important to take into consideration the statistics that reveal the magnitude of arms race evolution, and to understand Turkey’s reaction to these strategic transformations in the region by trying to answer two questions: What is the nature of the arms race taking place at the moment? What are the geopolitical changes that followed the Arab Spring?”

Yeşiltaş added that there are three possibilities vis-à-vis the arms race: (1) a single US-led structure, (2) a multipolar structure in which five states shape the geopolitical features of the Middle East, or (3) the absence of any poles, which is highly probable considering Middle Eastern security and which means that non-state parties take control and lead to chaos concerning the arms race in the region.

On his part, Masūd Asad Illāhī, expert on Iranian-Arab relations and security studies, reviewed the historical developments of the arms race in the Middle East, stressing that such race was absent 50 years ago. He confirmed that it is not only related with money, but also with phobia or fear created over a particular issue or against a particular country. In the 1970s, for example, there was the phobia of communism, which was followed by the phobia of the Iranian revolution in the 1980s, then the “Iraq phobia” and the Arab fear of Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, until we ended up with the “phobia of Iran”. Illāhī warned against Gulf weapons going out of control by using them against Yemen or for threatening and sieging Qatar, since the absence of Gulf arms control threatens to result in a very serious situation.

He proposed establishing broad regional cooperation among the countries of the region, including Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, India, and Pakistan, to counter what he called “lack of control over the Gulf weapons”.

Journalist Andrei Frolov, Editor of Arms Export magazine (Russia), said: “The Middle East and North Africa region has been a traditional area for the arms race, and it has been making a lot of money for the benefit of Moscow.” He explained that the huge budgets of countries in this area enable them to buy advanced weapons, and that the UAE, Algeria, and Egypt, for example, are the top customers of the highly developed Russian arms market.

He stressed that Russia used Syria as a theater to test many new weapons, and that the situation in Syria played an important role in promoting Russian weapons in the region, pointing out that the results of this promotion will show up in a few years.

Franke: Political Courage and Diplomatic Patience Gateway for overcoming conflicts

During a gala dinner on the first day of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, held in Doha from 27th-28th April under the theme of “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence“, Benedict Franke, Chief Operating Officer of the Munich Security Conference, said that the Middle East region is known for its many conflicts and disputes. Nevertheless, the Munich Security Conference has raised some prospects of hope in 2019 based on the following points: 

– The conference demonstrated how the situation in the Middle East region is deteriorating, raising more awareness that many conflicts are awaiting under the ashes, and that more than one variable can help fuel more conflicts in the Middle East, such as demographic shifts, climate change, and increased security conflicts.

– The Munich Conference has shown that rational diplomacy may succeed in presenting an insightful political approach that offers some sympathy and rationality.

– Some Munich partners have proposed tangible solutions to some problems.

In the context of his diagnosis of the situation in the Middle East, Franke stopped at three stations:


First: the Machiavellian moment

Franke explained what can be called a Machiavellian moment that can capture a vision for a solution even if the picture in this region remains bleak. The conference devoted a full year to the Middle East issues (Syria, Palestine, Iran, the Gulf, etc.) He added that the United Nations and other international organizations are getting desperate regarding what is happening in the Middle East. Everyone complains that the Middle East has become a place where all crises converge, let alone the absence of prudent political leaders. “We have invited many of the conflicting parties, but each has refused to sit down with its enemies, and some are afraid that their people will criticize them and therefore refused to come. The Munich conference showed how bad the situation in the Middle East is, and how threatened are the regimes. This is the Machiavellian moment which everyone should seize and benefit from.”


Second: Insightful diplomacy

Franke stressed that diplomacy is capable of success, and that wise political leadership can overcome many obstacles. There are many examples, most notably the case of northern Macedonia and Greece, where dialogue between the two sides managed to solve the problem. There is also the crisis of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which lasted for two decades and were resolved by both parties in less than four weeks, reaching an agreement through dialogue, “so it is necessary to possess political courage and diplomatic patience to overcome conflicts.”


Third: the Westphalia Convention has a history that can be utilized

Franke explained that the Munich conference came out with logical and useful recipes for progress. An example is what happened in 1648 in Europe following what became to be known as the Thirty Years War, where there was no hope in light of the many crises in Europe, along with the spread of sectarian hostilities. He stated that, “The situation back then is very similar to the current situation in the Middle East”. Pointing out that the seventeenth century is different from the twenty-first century, “but the Westphalia Convention draws a specific map, and gives us ideas that cannot be reproduced, of course, but can be inspired by means of negotiations and dialogue between the parties. Two years were enough to build peace and overcome challenges. This is a Machiavellian moment with distinction.”

Benedict concluded that the strength of a political leadership lies in its courage and sympathy as well as its ability to capture the Machiavellian moment.

Souag: Al Jazeera Will remain a platform of dialogue and deep understanding for a more peaceful society

Dr. Mostefa Souag, the Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN), delivered an address at the gala dinner held at the end of first day of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, which took place in Doha (Qatar) from 27th-28th April under the theme “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence“. In the address, Dr. Souag said that the AJMN has been organizing this forum for 13 years in order to listen, and has transformed it into a platform for all decision makers, thinkers and media professionals to come together and put forward their ideas and thoughts.

Souag added that this year’s version of the Forum was held under the auspices of the Al Jazeera Center for Studies (AJCS), and this was not arbitrary because AJCS is entrusted with conducting scientific research based on academic work tools and in-depth knowledge. “However, we in Al Jazeera  do not limit ourselves merely to discussions and talks, we rather proceed with detailed research and in-depth experience.  This 13th Forum serves as a dialogue platform, where everyone is free to speak without censorship, instruction or pressure. All participants have the right to express their opinions in the manner they choose,” he added.

Every year, the AJMN sheds light on specific affair that concerns the Arab region for further scrutiny and consideration in an attempt to come up with new findings that contribute to better conceptualization. “Over the 20th and 21st centuries, we have been seeing escalating conflicts provoked by international and regional actors. The most recent of these is the nearly two-year Gulf crisis, which gave rise to previous conflicts,” Souag noted.

According to Dr. Souag, this crisis has uncovered the fragility of the Arab joint action, and further worked to shake the GCC system and threaten the social fabric of its states. Thus, the region has strategically declined to play any influential role in its surroundings. Even worse is the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which, in addition to the blockade of Qatar, broke the trust and blasted the concept of diplomacy. As a result, the region has been shaken. The situation after the murder of Khashoggi is no longer the same as before.

Elaborating on the GCC crisis, Souag said: This crisis, which stripped the GCC off its strategic role, was preceded by an actual regional war on Yemen, which failed to fulfil any of its objectives and, instead, plunged Yemen into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to UN reports. Then, the situation in the region became even worse with the US announced sanctions on Iran, which impacted the interrelationships among GCC countries and with their neighbors. This opened the door for the arms racing in the region.

Dr. Souag indicated that Al Jazeera expresses its regret that it could not invite any researchers from the blockade countries lest they would suffer any harm if we communicate with them. Some of these countries’ citizens, however, have come from their exiles and diasporas to take part in the 13th Al Jazeera Forum. Participants’ contributions to this forum are characterized by quality and value, because it leave the attendants with the impression that they learn not only new information, but also “views that drive us to turn our thought through multiple perspectives and approaches. Today, we feel a remarkable and unique experience in terms of depth, and this is what we look for.”

He added that AJMN does not seek to cover news stories in isolation from its contexts. It rather provides understanding of the events. “We in Al Jazeera seek to place events in their historical and social contexts. Such important backgrounds make the public understand in a non-horizontal manner, which is insufficient. It is important to develop vertical understanding that help them realize all aspects of events. This is what the attending researchers have brought in to this forum and what is broadcast on Al Jazeera.”

Speaking of the goal of the AJCS, Souag said it is not only restricted to preparing research papers or publishing books, but also presenting this significant service that provides viewers with deep understanding of events. While journalists spend great deal of effort on the flowing events, the AJCS works on forming this solid basis and presenting the necessary depth to both the journalists and viewers.

In conclusion, Dr. Souag stressed that Al Jazeera will continue to serve as an interactive platform that boasts dialogue, discussion of ideas and deep understanding, all of which leads to more peaceful and harmonious society.

Third Session: The Assassination of Khashoggi: Adding to Regional Complexities

In the third session of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum held in Doha on April 27th-28th under the theme “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence“, researchers, journalists, and media specialists confirmed that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul has further complicated the regional scene. They also praised what they described as a “critical” role played by Al Jazeera in highlighting this unprecedented crime. 

The participants pointed out to the regional repercussions of the assassination of Khashoggi and its impact on Turkish-Saudi relations. They also referred to the four-year conflict in Yemen that has neither reached any results nor indicated any prospects of ending the military operations led by Saudi Arabia.

Turkish journalist Ferhat Ünlü, one of the authors of “Diplomatic Atrocity: The Dark Secrets of the Khashoggi Murder”, praised Al Jazeera for its great role in the Arab world and for shedding light on Khashoggi’s case.

He said: This crime has gravely affected the Saudi-Turkish relations as well as relations with the United States, especially as Khashoggi’s murder is a thorny issue that continues to bear considerable repercussions on the world scene. He added that it revealed a state that undermined all moral, religious, human, and even diplomatic values, pointing out that the whole world now wants to know the answer to one question: Where did the body disappear?

For his part, researcher Ali Al-Dahab emphasized the role of free media in highlighting the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pointing out that the murder was preceded by other intercontinental crimes, including the one committed against former Yemeni President Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Hamdi, whose murder took place in 1977 but did not receive the same media attention.

He noted that the violation of freedoms was already an issue before the death of Khashoggi, and that this crime made the Yemenis speculate about the fate of their country after four years of war. In reference to the military operations led by Saudi Arabia under the pretext of fighting the Huthis and restoring legitimacy, and said: “We began to suspect that there are bad intentions hatched against Yemen, now that this war has entered its fourth year without reaching any results.”

Simon Spanswick, Chief Executive of Association for International Broadcasting (UK), said: “Khashoggi’s assassination was one of the most horrific crimes that have attracted media attention around the world.” He explained that the Association for International Broadcasting works side by side with several media partners and institutions, including Al Jazeera, to raise awareness among media recipients about the urgent need for joint action to achieve and protect freedom of the press and help journalists carry out their mission and provide their services unhindered.

Second Session: The Reality of the Gulf System and the Erosion of Saudi Influence

The second session of the 13th Al Jazeera Forum, held in Doha on April 27th-28th under the theme of “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence“, featured extended discussions on the reality of the GCC in light of the current Gulf crisis. The session also discussed the erosion of Saudi influence due to Saudi policies that began to have a negative effect on the kingdom’s image in the region.

Nasser Al-Duwailah, former Kuwaiti Member of Parliament, said that the philosophy of Saudi rule does not recognize or abide by any certain borders because it adopts an expansionist view, and, for this reason, the borders of the Saudi state have been constantly changing. Al-Duwaila added that, to understand the current Gulf crisis, we should consider the historical contexts that proved that the crisis is mainly associated with the kingdom’s history and philosophy of governance, and has nothing to do with Al Jazeera and its media coverage.

Abdul Aziz Al Ishaq, Qatari political analyst and media consultant, talked about the confidence crisis among the Gulf States and the seriousness of this crisis on the future of the Gulf. He said: “Unfortunately, this situation of distrust results in continued enmity, and as long as governments fuel this enmity, the situation becomes even more complicated, reaching a point where a Qatari becomes an enemy of everything that is Emirati and vice versa.” He added: “During this crisis, the people in the region has experienced a large amount of loaded hatred that has led us to a distant point.”

Researcher Mohanna Al-Hubail pointed out that two main axes are now beginning to form in the region: the axis of moderation, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman; and the axis of escalation, including Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Speaking about the public hostility caused by the crisis, Al-Hubail said: “Despite the ugly and dirty behavior of some people in the UAE, we are not in a state of public hostility.” He stressed that the crisis must be resolved by means of promoting social and popular solidarity.

Talal Al Atrissi, sociology professor and director of the Institute of Social Sciences at the Lebanese University, stressed that the Arab Spring has caused confusion to the current equations in the region. He added that this situation has strongly affected the Gulf system, where each party now seeks to obtain a foothold in the context of new changes, noting that the situation has opened the appetite of some countries to play a role they did not use to play, especially Saudi Arabia which is not engaging in direct wars for the first time.

Researcher Khalid Rammah talked about the tragic dimension of the war in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia’s failure to achieve its objectives. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has followed a new strategy of moving away from old allies and movements toward newly formed allies, adding that the aim of this strategy is to develop a new plan to confront Iran.

First Session: The Blockade of Qatar, Two Years Later

Experts and academics have agreed that the Gulf crisis will continue indefinitely because of the lack of strategic long-term treatment that determines the gains and losses from this crisis, where all parties seem to be losing. During first session, entitled ” Intra-Gulf Relations: The Blockade of Qatar, Two Years Later “, took part in the 13th Al-Jazeera Forum in Doha, Qatar. April 2019, the participants pointed out that the popular movement and recent developments in Sudan, Algeria and Libya, confirms the failure of the Gulf axis to undermine the aspirations of peoples towards freedom and dignity in the Arab Spring and the failure to find legitimacy for the systems supporting them.


Dr. Majid Al Ansari, professor of political sociology at Qatar University, warned of the danger of looking at the Gulf crisis and intra-Gulf relations as separate from its regional and international environment. He pointed out that what happened in the Gulf region is only a natural extension of a fundamental change in the structure of the international system. The Gulf is part of the cycle in which the international community, which has moved from a multipolar to a unipolar world, and it is now returning to a new multi-polar world that is looming. He said.

Dr. Al-Ansari said that the United States has not been able in recent years to prove its ability in protecting its allies and interests directly. He added that there is a state of concern and caution among the media and intellectuals about the ongoing popular movement in the Arab region, stressing that it represents a second wave of the Arab revolutions; the current situation is only a natural consequence of the regimes’ failure to regain control of the Arab situation in general.


From his side, Dr. Mohamed Mokhtar Al-Shanqiti, Professor of political ethics at Hamad bin Khalifa University, said: Qatar has used the wise power to deal with the Gulf crisis. He pointed out that this concept is based on the Arab concept of wisdom, a concept that the state of Qatar is dealing with during the current crisis.

Dr. Al-Shanqiti referred to other writers who spoke about the tactful power of Qatar, which is softer than soft power. The concept of sharp power means illegal attempts by some countries to influence other countries. Dr. Al- Shanqiti pointed out that this concept applies to the blockading countries that tried to penetrate the state of Qatar through the piracy of the Qatar News Agency.


Dr. Sami Faraj, a specialist in crisis management and strategic planning from Kuwait, predicted that the Gulf crisis would continue indefinitely because it is being handled in purely political ways and has not been exposed to strategic aspects. He stressed that the role of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Kuwaiti diplomacy is to maintain the stability of the crisis and prevent the development of the crisis to military action. Dr. Faraj concluded his intervention by saying: So far, things are under control.


Dr. Rory Miller, Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Qatar, said:  “We didn’t have to surprise about the siege of Qatar, because there were signs that preceded this decision. And  also because of the emergence of a new generation of young leaders in Saudi Arabia and other countries who tried to review their power and expand their influence in Qatar and other Middle East countries, through Different alliances and marginalizing opponents through resorting to violence and other tools “.


Dr. Miller wondered: How has Qatar managed to overcome the conflict? To answer: one of the first responses was lnked to the initiative of the State of Qatar to build bridges with the United States and Turkey. Then Qatar used its economic power intelligently, although it is not as rich as the blockading States, but it used its resources wisely and used the energy sector as an entity that avoids Marginalization and isolation.

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies celebrates the launch of the Book of good Governance in Qatar

On Saturday, 27 April 2019, Doha, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies organized a ceremony to sign the book, “The Experience of Good Governance in Qatar: Levers of Sustainable Development and Social Empowerment (1995–2013)”. The ceremony was held on the sidelines of the 13th Al Jazeera forum under the theme: “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence “and attended by researchers, experts and decision makers from a different country around the world.

The signing ceremony of the book “The experience of good governance in Qatar” was accompanied by a discussion among a group of researchers participating in the forum about its contents.  

The book examines, through research and study, the internal and external policies pursued by the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, during his reign, which lasted from 1995 to 2013, and monitors its impact on the political and social change in Qatar. The book contains an introduction, seven chapters and a conclusion.

The first chapter, prepared by Dr. Larbi Siddiqui, professor of international relations, Qatar University, addressed the ways in which Qatar has adapted its policies and programs at the social and political levels to balance originality, which preserves societal values and modernity that enable Qatar to cope with the achievements of nowadays and benefit from progress in governance and management.

In the second chapter of the book, Dr. Omar Boubakri, professor of public Law at the Tunisian university, highlighted the sustainable development policy of the State of Qatar and its impact on the sustainability and development of resources for the current generation and future generations, adding that development requires transparency support And fight against corruption.

In the third chapter of the book, Dr. Hassan Al-Sayyed, professor of constitutional law at Qatar University’s Faculty of Law, presented an analytical reading of the permanent Qatari constitution of 2004. Dr. Al Sayed discussed Qatar’s constitution in relation to the principles of good governance, based on the articles and spirit of the Constitution.

In the fourth chapter, Dr. Chaker Al-Houki, professor of public law at the Faculty of Economic and Political sciences in Tunisia, addressed the municipal elections in Qatar, which were organized periodically from 1999 onwards. Dr. Al-Houki described how these elections were not a step in consolidating democratic practice, as they were based on the active participation of citizens only, but also constituted an important step towards establishing good governance and modernizing society.

In the fifth chapter, Dr. Majid Al Ansari, professor of political sociology at Qatar University, highlighted the course of social and political transformations achieved during the reign of the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, in the context of the Qatar Development Project. Al-Ansari monitored the achievements of the various social, cultural, economic and political fields, particularly the accomplishments in the fields of education, the participation of women in community development and the development of civil society.

Chapter 6 focuses on policies to empower women and foster sustainable development. Al-Anoud Ahmed Al-Thani, senior researcher and advisor at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, looks at the role of good governance in empowering Qatari women economically, socially and politically through the political momentum generated by Sheikh Hamad immediately upon assuming power in 1995. The seventh and final chapter dealt with the economic policies and choices adopted by the state under the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and their impact on development. It examines the organic relationship between these economic policies and good governance in the management of state resources and capacities to secure a dignified life for current generations and respond to their needs and the social needs of coming generations.

Mehmed Mehdi Eker: No other alternative than a comprehensive dialogue to strengthen Gulf and regional security

“The strengthening of Gulf and regional security in the region can only be achieved through a comprehensive dialogue between all parties, and away from the policy of economic isolation and military threats,” stated Dr. Mehmet Mehdi Eker, Former deputy Chairman of Turkish Justice and Development Party. Dr. Eker warned that sectarian politics lead to polarization, escalation and proxy wars, as in the current crisis in Yemen.


In his speech at the opening session of the 13th Al-Jazeera Network Forum in Doha, Qatar, on 27 and 28 April 2019, under the title: “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence” Dr. Eker noted that :”our region has faced a lot of  unrest in In  recent years, in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan. Away from these hot spots, the picture in the Gulf region is so complex, to say the least, because of crises that undermine the security and future of the Gulf Common Security and have repercussions beyond the region.”

Dr. Eker Said: “We are very sorry to see this unjust and unfair blockade imposed on Qatar for nearly two years. Unfortunately, this has threatened the harmony of the GCC countries. The GCC has played a crucial and positive security role, and was an umbrella for the Gulf States during the past years. Dr. Eker pointed out that there is damage in the intra relations between the Gulf States.


“Turkey wants the security and stability of the Gulf, because the security of the Gulf is positive for Turkey,” Dr. Eker added during his review of his country’s vision to resolve the current Gulf crisis.
“When the blockade was imposed on the State of Qatar, Turkey rushed to the rescue of the Qatari brothers and provided many needs to bridge the gap created by the siege in Qatar,” He added.

“We in Turkey call on the parties to exercise restraint and engage in an unconditional dialogue to reach a solution. We need mediation, and Turkey is convinced of the need to lift the imposed blockade and restrictions on Qatar, and the need to reach a dialogue based on the fully respect of the sovereignty of States and the Principe of non-interference in the affairs of States and good-neighborly relations. “


“Qatar is stronger than it was before the embargo and it has diversified its economy. We appreciate Qatar’s interest and desire to become an integral part of international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in the European Union and improve its relations with NATO,” Dr. Eker said.

Referring to new initiatives to establish regional alliances along the lines of the so-called Arab NATO, Dr. Eker said, “We have seen efforts to strengthen the Gulf security structure by strengthening the relations between GCC countries, and initiatives such as establishing security alliances such as the Arab NATO. We are ready to support and champion any initiative to strengthen public security, but they have to meet some criteria to be meaningful and successful. “


“The Gulf conflict must be resolved based on the principles I mentioned earlier to enhance security. Any security mechanism must adhere to the principle of comprehensive security and not be at the expense of other countries,” Mahdi Akar said and added, “Policies linked to economic isolation and military threat pave the way for major political tensions and an arms race, and this can only  lead to the opposite results. “

He added that strengthening security would not be without a comprehensive dialogue, away from the policy of economic isolation and military threats. Sectarian politics must be abandoned, because they lead to polarization, proxy wars and militancy, and Yemen is a model.

“Tensions, proxy wars and marginalization not only threaten the security of the region, but also lead to international erosion, through what we see as the heinous murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and while we view it as a crime, we expect to reveal the circumstances of that crime in all its dimensions.”

Al-Mashri: Countries that besieged Qatar support Haftar with money and weapons

Khalid Al-Mashri, President of the Supreme Council of State in Libya, began his speech by emphasizing the importance of research centers and their pioneering role in spreading awareness and helping decision makers to formulate policies and strategies. “Most of the centers in the Arab world are formal government centers that do not help to make decisions or formulate policies. Nevertheless, the Al Jazeera Centre for studies is an exception to this rule, the center was able to emerge as a Think Tank who contributed and continues to contribute to the development of the Arab and Islamic mind and in anticipation of the future of this nation.” Al-Mashri said.

During the opening session of the 13th, AJ Forum held in Doha, Qatar under the title: “The Gulf: From Crisis to Decline of Strategic Influence” on 27 and 28 April 2019. Al-Mashri explained that the absence of official interest in the research centers has been evident in the Arab countries, since these kind of centers constitute only 2/1000 of the total centers, “a weak percentage especially when compared to neighboring countries.”

Regarding the reality of the GCC, Al-Mashri stressed that the Council “remained the nucleus of large regional projects capable of presenting the model in the field of economic integration and achieving economic successes in cooperation with other blocs, aided by a variety of factors, including geography and demography, which gives him a chance to achieve great success”. We expected to see a unified currency, a unified passport and other aspects of integration, but this did not happen because some countries in the region were trying to dominate some of their neighbors, so they moved from integration policy to the adoption of containment policy.

The President of the Supreme Council of State in Libya added that the Gulf crisis has caused a real threat to the stability of the region as each country seeks to provide its own security through new military cooperation with countries from outside the region. It is clear that the GCC cannot face the regional challenges, especially with the rise of Israel and Iran

“The crisis has also affected the Arab Spring countries, as other parties have tried to eliminate the democratic orientation in some of these countries by supporting the counterrevolutions.” Al-Mashri said, and he added, “Although the GCC position was unified toward the Libyan revolution at its beginning, what happened afterwards was in favor of the instability in Libya.” He added, “That after some GCC countries supported the counterrevolutions, Qatar found itself in a difficult situation”.


Al Mashri also stressed that: “The Supreme Council of State in Libya tried to abide by all the resolutions and agreements and was keen to achieve security and peace for Libyans.” He added, “The Council was preparing for the Libyan National Reconciliation Conference in May 2019. However, ahead of the visit of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Tripoli, We saw the forces of Haftar attacking the capital, in complete violation of the charters and Covenants agreed upon, and this attack was with the support of Saudi Arabia- Haftar visited Riyadh days before the launch of the Tripoli attack-. From its side the UAE has violated international peace laws by providing Khalifa Haftar with helicopters and sophisticated weapons, In addition to the Emirati troops stationed in the “Al Kharob” base, as reported by US reports. 

He noted that the US has announced, in many reports, that the UAE and Egypt have launched an attack on Libya, and that the support provided to Haftar forces has affected the humanitarian situation and led to a rise in the death toll and the expansion of displacement of people. Violations also included targeting ambulances and places of worship… Indiscriminate shelling has led to a lack of food supplies.

Al-Mashri pointed out, “The countries that have imposed a blockade on Qatar are the same countries that are supporting Haftar and supplying him with money and arms to enter Libya into a dark tunnel”. He added also, “Haftar attacks have caused severe economic damage that could lead to a halt in the flow of oil or to a reduction in export volumes.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council countries are able to achieve significant successes if they reconcile with their council and the spirit of joint action between their countries, Al-Mashri said, adding that the areas of cooperation are wide and available in Libya as there are billions of dollars in investment projects. In conclusion, Al-Mashri stressed that the stability of the region depends on the return of the Gulf relations to normal.

Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer: One of the worst crises in the Human history, the loss of confidence among countries

In his Speech, Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani, Chairman of Al Jazeera Media Network, pointed out that the current Gulf crisis is an exceptional crisis that the region has never seen before, because it has affected people more than systems. He also explained that those who ignited the current crisis wanted it to reach this level of harm to the people in order to complicate the possibility of overcoming its consequences in the future. Sheikh Hamad stressed that the loss of confidence among countries is one of the worst crises in the history of nations.

In his inaugural speech at the 13th AJ Forum in Doha, Qatar, on April 27-28, 2019, Sheikh Hamad stressed the importance of the Forum and its innovative role in addressing regional issues. Sheikh Hamad considered the forum a platform for researchers, media, thinkers and decision-makers to exchange views on the geopolitical challenges facing the region without any guardianship or censorship. He added that the Al Jazeera network closely monitors developments in the region and conveys to the world the hopes of its people with accuracy and integrity. This continuous follow-up has shown that the peoples of the region insist on their right to freedom and development and are prepared to contribute positively to human civilization with confidence. The peoples of the region have demonstrated their renewed hopes for their political maturity and adherence to peaceful and civilized in order to achieve reforms and they show their openness to building more reconciling societies with themselves and with the world.


Sheikh Hamad reviewed the most important developments in the Arab region in recent months, most notably the return of the movement of peoples in many Arab countries, such as Sudan and Algeria. He pointed out that the Gulf crisis-, which broke out after Saudi Arabia, and the UAE and Bahrain announced the blockade of Qatar, and the closure of all land and sea and air ports-. That decision of blockading Qatar paralyzed the effectiveness of the GCC Council and weakened its unity after it was one of the most important and harmonious Arab joint action organizations.

“The conflicts in the region and the ambitions of regional and international powers are escalating, stated the chairman of Al-Jazeera media network.  He pointed to the Gulf crisis, which is about to complete its second year, stressing that it hit the Gulf system in depth and threatened the security of the Gulf countries and stripped them of the ability to Addressing regional challenges or influencing their surroundings. Sheikh Hamad noted that before this crisis, the Gulf citizen aspires to more practical steps towards a Gulf rapprochement through the unification of currency and passport, but the crisis has led to the loss of this trust between the GCC countries.

Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer stressed that the biggest problem lies in the loss of trust between the GCC countries, pointing out that the Iraq-Iran war was one of the reasons for the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council to protect a country from the external threat, but this time the threat came from within the Council.

Sheikh Hamad explained that the crisis of the siege of Qatar has set a precedent. He noted that the rest of the GCC States are concerned about the possibility to find themselves facing the same situation, namely the complicity of three countries against another country and the failure to respect the foundations and regulations of the General Secretariat of the Cooperation Council and take individual decisions to blockade a particular country.

He stressed that the crisis of confidence among the GCC countries needs to be dealt with deeply by researchers and media, because the loss of confidence among countries is one of the worst crises in the history of nations. He expressed his confidence that the GCC countries are capable of overcoming this crisis and their negative consequences. He expressed his optimism that GCC countries have many common values that they share and that differences will not differentiate between them and that, they can overcome this crisis.

Sheikh Hamad noted that the countries of the blockade did not achieve their goals, but we are all losers. The countries of the blockade did not achieve anything except that they paralyzed the effectiveness of the GCC and weakened the unity of its position it was one of the most important and harmonious Arab joint action organizations.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer, Chairman of the Al Jazeera Media Network, concluded by welcoming again the guests participating in the 13th AJ forum hosted by Al Jazeera Network as a platform for constructive dialogue and a platform for a permanent meeting in which opinions and ideas compete freely and respectfully.