Former Qatari PM’s bombshell on Syria revisited

US President Barack Obama (left) stands alongside Saudi King Salman (right) at King Khalid Airport in Riyadh, Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
US President Barack Obama (left) stands alongside Saudi King Salman (right) at King Khalid Airport in Riyadh, Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

The former Qatari prime minister’s bombshell in a recent interview with the Financial Times largely went unnoticed but Arab observers are calling for explanations about the Saudi role in the Syria crisis. 

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani suggested that the 2012 crisis in Syria, which has claimed about 400,000 lives so far, was a political game and not a revolution as claimed by the West and its allies.

The London-based tycoon who still maintains close links with current Qatari rulers blamed Saudi Arabia for the worsening situation after the US gave the green light to the kingdom to intervene in Syria.

“I will tell you one thing and that is maybe the first time I say this: when we started being involved in Syria we had a green light that Qatar would lead this because Saudi Arabia didn’t at that time want to lead,” Sheikh Hamad said.

“After that there was a change in policy and Saudi Arabia didn’t inform us that they wanted us in the back seat. We ended up competing and it was not healthy,” he added in the FT interview published on April 15.

According to the paper, the Persian Gulf Arab countries’ Syria policy is closely associated with Sheikh Hamad, who was often seen as relishing the rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The FT reporter pushes him on another debacle in Libya, pointing out that the same policies were followed in the African country, where Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have backed opposing sides in the war.

Sheikh Hamad acknowledges that in Libya, “There were a lot of cookers in the end. That’s why it was spoiled,” the newspaper said.

In this Oct. 26, 2011 photo, two Syrian women hold a placard with a sarcastic caricature on it against the former emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in Umayyad Square in downtown Damascus. 

‘Very dangerous remarks’

Prominent Saudi writer Tarad bin Saeed al-Ameri has described Sheikh Hamad’s remarks as “very dangerous” which “raise many questions because they totally obliterate the basic foundations of the Syria story.”

That is “the story which (Persian) Gulf littoral states have made up about Syria, Assad’s removal, the government’s treatment of the Syrian people, regional security, meddling in other countries’ affairs, Geneva talks and most importantly Iran’s role in the region,” he wrote on the Anha website.

“Hence, more than anything, America, Saudi Arabia and Qatar must provide explanations about Hamad bin Jassim’s statements,” he added.

According to Ameri, the former Qatari PM’s contention that “what is unfolding in Syria is part of an international game is not surprising.”

Planned before Arab Spring

“Like former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who said the war against Syria was planned two years before ‘the Arab Spring,’ it is not surprising from Qatar because this is the country which was busy at the time, plotting in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria,” Ameri wrote.

What is surprising and controversial is Sheikh Hamad’s allegation about Saudi intervention in Syria which requires a formal confirmation or denial, he went on to say.

“Hamad bin Jassim’s accusation of Saudi armed support for those who took to the streets to protest against the government totally changes the whole story and eradicates the basics of Saudi claims and those by other (Persian) Gulf states about the Syria crisis.”

Former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (Photo by AFP) 

According to the Saudi writer, the Syrian government can use “these dangerous statements as evidence to bring a lawsuit against various countries and receive more than $1 trillion in compensation to rebuild” Syria.

“Involvement in an international plot to topple a sovereign government is not an issue to simply overlook. We need to get full information about the planning and what Hamad bin Jassim calls an international game,” Ameri said.

Israeli link?

However, there remains one important question, “Was the recent Israeli stance about Golan part of the game?” he asked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked an international outcry after convening Israel’s first cabinet meeting in the occupied Golan Heights last week.

It prompted Syrian Ambassador to UN Bashar al-Ja’afari to accuse Tel Aviv of collaborating with Daesh and Nusra Front militants in attacking the country.

According to Ameri, Qatar’s former prime minister has dropped the “bombshell in the Saudi lap” and the onus is on the kingdom “to reveal the truth even if it hurts America.”

“Can America and its allies in Saudi Arabia and (Persian) Gulf countries call for Bashar al-Assad’s removal after this revelation or participate in the negotiations to resolve the Syrian crisis?” he asked.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in December that leaked documents from Saudi ministries showed the kingdom, Qatar, and Turkey had a secret deal three years ago to topple the Syrian government.

He told Rossiya-1 channel that the United States, France, and Britain had also been involved in the secret deal in 2012.

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