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So What We Learned From Sun Tzu Holds True In The 21st Century: All Warfare Is Based On Deception

01/08/2017 15:50

Seven weeks on from the imposition of the air, sea and land blockade on the tiny kingdom of Qatar by its Gulf neighbours, the fog of charge and counter charge has begun to clear.

Analysts have struggled to interpret the worst diplomatic dispute in the region for decades, which threatens to destabilise wider relationships in the Gulf. There are long standing tensions over Qatar's determination to play a role on the world stage, which has irritated its neighbours. But what caused the four countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain - to dramatically up the stakes by accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, remains unexplained.

Mohammed Salah, a building supplies exporter in Dubai, summed it up. "One minute we are doing business with Qatar, the next we are told we are doing business with terrorists. It is all so confusing," he told the Financial Times.

Now it has emerged that a key trigger for the dispute - incendiary quotes the Emir of Qatar is alleged to have made praising Iran and Hamas - were, in fact, invented. According to the Washington Post, US Intelligence has concluded that the United Arab Emirates - one of the Gang of Four - was responsible for a hack of Qatari government news and social media sites in May in which the fabricated quotes were planted.

So the state sponsors of the Qatar blockade who have claimed the moral high ground in the dispute, demanding "trust' and "transparency" from their neighbour, have instead been exposed resorting to fake news in order to engineer a crisis.

The UAE has denied the Washington Post story. Amid the claims, counter claims and obfuscation that has characterised this crisis from the start, it has been hard to disentangle the truth.
Last Friday, the Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said he was ready for talks to end the crisis on condition that the emirate's sovereignty was respected. Ignoring the fabricated allegations against him, he said he was committed to a policy of "economic openness and diversification" and the development of "our educational, research and media institutions" in order to build the country's independence, maintain its security and strengthen relations with other parts of the world. "This is no longer a matter of luxury for us, but a binding and inevitable course of action," he said.

Foreign diplomats and heads of state have criss-crossed the region in search of a compromise. This week it was the turn of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who began a two day visit to the region on Sunday. Turkey has a military base in Qatar and has been a vocal supporter of the emirate in the dispute, but it does more trade with the four countries ranged against it. Mr Erdogan has referred to Saudi Arabia as the "elder statesman" in the crisis and said it had "a big role to play" in ending it.

The impact of the blockade, designed to isolate the gas-rich state, is hard to determine. After the initial panic, when Qataris cleared the supermarket shelves, food supplies and other goods are now flowing into Qatar's docks and airports, with the assistance of Turkey and Iran. But businesses in Dubai and elsewhere in the Middle East are having to be circumspect about doing deals with a country that may cause them to be blacklisted with other customers.

Qatar is classified by the UN as the most advanced Arab state for human development. The country has made enormous investments in education, science and medicine. It has brought eight international universities - six from the US (Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Northwestern and Virginia Commonwealth), one from France and one from the UK - to the region, provided them with world-class facilities in its hub, known as Education City , and guaranteed academic freedom, thereby embracing important enlightenment values in a culturally conservative, predominantly Muslim society.

It has established the Sidra Medical and Research Center Centre for Women and Children, , a state of the art hospital opened in 2016 which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and planned as a resource for the whole Gulf region. It hosts two international summits, the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) and the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), which I chair, attended by thousands of global experts, which have created a unique platform that brings together ministers, industry leaders, policy makers and academics.

As Qatar seeks to transform itself from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, these gains - for the region and the world - are under threat. It would be a scandal if they were squandered over a fabricated news story based on fabricated quotes planted by state-sponsored hackers.

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