Qatari exiles, largely unknown, boosted by diplomatic crisis

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Qatari exile wants to discuss the possibility of a “bloodless coup” amid a diplomatic dispute pitting Doha against other Arab nations. Another exile, a little-known Qatari ruling family member, meets with Qatar’s main foe Saudi Arabia and immediately gets suggested as a replacement for Doha’s ruling sheikh.

However, whether Khalid al-Hail’s planned conference or Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani’s sudden prominence represents any bloc within Qatar remains an open question.

The rise of these Qataris exiles and others criticizing the energy-rich sheikhdom shows the fundamental challenge in trying to find opposition voices in Gulf Arab nations where political parties are illegal.

Exiles like al-Hail dismiss any sign of public support of the government as the coercive fear of the secret police. Those supporting the region’s hereditary rulers can in turn dismiss the exiles as puppets of their opponents, in Qatar’s case Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Meanwhile, the Qatar crisis grinds on without an end in sight, pitting the home of a major U.S. military base against other American allies — a Gulf political parlor game once only conducted behind closed doors.

“These sorts of things have always happened, but they weren’t so vocal and publicly displayed,” said Cinzia Bianco, a London-based analyst for Gulf State Analytics. “It really complicates things because at the end of the day, you’ve really involved the whole world … but nobody’s really able to help you solve the dispute.”

Al-Hail is the latest exile to emerge amid the Qatar crisis, which began June 5 with boycotting nations cutting off Doha’s land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied funding extremists and recently restored full diplomatic relations with Iran, with whom it shares a massive offshore natural gas field that made the country and its 250,000-odd citizens fantastically wealthy.

A London conference planned by al-Hail for Sept. 14 will include discussions about how to make Qatar a constitutional monarchy, as opposed to one ruled absolutely by its emir, he said. That will include talk about a “bloodless coup” supplanting the country’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, though al-Hail stressed his fledgling movement was…

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