(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Qatar's clout in the region is fading, and one year of boycott has crushed the political, economic and diplomatic influence it wielded for the past 20 years, top academics and thought leaders have opined.
"After a year of boycott, Qatar is tired and exhausted - politically and diplomatically. In the last 20 years, Qatar had behaved like a regional giant exerting its political influence and expanding its power. But one year of sanctions and boycott have ended all the Qatari influence. The giant has been reduced into a dwarf," said Dr Mohd bin Huwaidin, associate professor and chair of political science department at the UAE University.
He was speaking at a seminar in Abu Dhabi, titled 'The Crisis in Qatar: A year of obstinacy and strategic evaluation of outcomes', organised by the Emirates Policy Centre.
Four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and fostering close ties with the regio-nal bully, Iran. In what is one of the worst diplomatic stalemates, trade sanctions and travel bans were imposed on Qatar.
According to Huwaidin, the biggest failure of Qatar is its inability to end the boycott by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain even after manoeuvering all diplomatic and political platforms at its disposal.
Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, ren-owned academic and researcher in Arabian Gulf Affairs, said the crisis has exposed Qatar's link to terrorist outfits. "From Houthis to Hezbollah and Hamas to Al Nusra, Qatar has links with terrorist outfits. The world has realised that Qatar is part of the problem and not the solution."
Stating that Qatar is paying the price for its obstinacy, Abdul Aziz Al Khamis, editor-in-chief of London-based Al Arab newspaper, said the narrative of who is funding and fostering terrorism has changed. "Saudi Arabia was accused of having links to terrorism. Now it is a known fact that it is Qatar and not Saudi that is harbouring and funding terrorist outfits."
Though the boycott is heavy on Qatar, the panel agreed a political turnaround is far from reality. "The boycott may not be fruitful. But it is one of the crucial courses to weaken the party. There is no doubt Qatar would have been in a stronger position if there was no isolation," said Salem Al Yami, political analyst and former advisor to the Saudi Foreign ministry.
"Qatar's rate of growth that stood at 6 per cent in 2016 fell to 2.5 per cent in 2017 and further to 1.8 in 2018," noted Dr Hamad al Towaijri, associate professor of economics at the King Saud University said. Omar Bahlaiwa, chairman of Optimum Business Consulting Bureau, said: "At least 50 per cent of Qatar's tourists were from GCC. It has decreased by 70 per cent. Its cost for hosting the World Cup will increase as they are forced to buy at a higher cost from far away countries."
But Dr Huwaidin said Qatar was a robust economy. "The Turkish presence is giving it political and military impunity. I think the boycott will continue for many years, at least as long as the current emir is in power." The panelists reiterated its trust in the mediating role played by Kuwait, stating the country is in the best position to talk to both parties.