Al Jazeera has released the first two editions of a new documentary following the failed coup d’etat in Qatar in February 1996. It provides evidence of that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain were involved in the coup, despite years of denial.
The coup targeted the then-Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa. According to the documentary, a group of prominent Middle Eastern officials formed a committee to orchestrate the coup. Its leaders included the Saudi minister of defense, the crown prince of Bahrain, the former Egyptian vice president, and the former chief of staff of the UAE armed forces, who is now the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
This revelation of widespread regional collusion is a dramatic expansion of the initial understanding of who was responsible. Following the attempt, the Emir’s cousin, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, was found guilty as the coup’s mastermind, says BBC. Jassim bin Hamad was Qatar’s economy minister and police chief. He, along with 32 others, were jailed for life. During the trials, several witnesses alleged that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were at least aware of the plot, but no action was taken against these parties.
A main engineer of the coup revealed the large role that the then-crown prince of Bahrain played. The prince personally financed sabotage operations and bombings in Doha, though his efforts were foiled by technical difficulties.
One of the supervisors of the Qatari police investigation detailed new evidence against the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia in the documentary. Investigations reveal extensive conversation about the coup between Qatari authorities and leaders in the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the U.A.E. and Bahrain provided passports to Qatari fugitives and military members participating in the coup.
The Atlantic says that relations between Qatar and many of its neighbors had been hostile for years before the coup. Between Qatar and Bahrain, control over the Hawar Islands has long been a point of contention. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have conflicting interests in Yemen’s internal affairs and just before the 1996 coup, clashed over appointments to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Two decades later, these lines of division still cut through regional relations. In June of 2017, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain gave Qatari citizens notices to leave their territory in June of 2017, BBC reports. The following month, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar. Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives soon followed. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Egypt have excluded Qatari aircraft from their airspace. Saudi Arabia has closed the only land border to Qatar, and many ports have banned Qatari ships from docking.
Furthermore, according to the Gulf Times, Qatar filed complaints to the UN over violations of Qatari airspace by Bahrain and the U.A.E only a few days after the release of the documentary. Qatar also issued a report to the UN of a U.A.E. naval ship seizing a Qatari fishing boat at gunpoint earlier this year. These recent incidents and the revelations of the documentary may aggravate the long-bred tensions between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors.