The British Establishment Has a Qatar Problem – Daily Beast

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“The great thing about the Qataris,” a wealthy racehorse trainer told me recently, as the sound of several million dollars’ worth of prime Qatari-owned horseflesh thundering around the gallops in the distance filtered up to us, “is that they just love spending money. They can’t stop spending money. They just want to spend, spend, spend.”

Given that the Qataris love spending their cash in the U.K. more than anywhere else, don’t expect the British establishment to join President Donald Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar anytime soon.

The Saudi action has seen land borders closed and trade embargoes enforced between Qatar and four Arab countries.

The action is being taken, putatively, to chastise Qatar for funding terror groups in the region. Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain have all joined the blockade, which threatens to cripple the country’s domestic economy.

Saudi Arabia severed Qatar’s access to its only land border, across which roughly 40 percent of Qatar’s food needs are imported.

Given that Saudi Arabia has a long and well documented history of funding extremist madrassas run along deeply conservative lines, many analysts are arguing that the dispute is actually more of a classic regional power struggle, and the latest installment of the interminable struggle between the Sunni and the Shia, with the “war on terror” nothing but a convenient fig leaf.

Sunni Saudi Arabia hates the fact that Shia Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood and is friendly to Shia Iran. They also hate the fact that Qatar won’t do what it is told and has consistently objected to any attempts to “pool” sovereignty, currency or defense with other Arab nations (which would give Saudi Arabia dominance in the region).

Trump may be keen—despite selling the Qataris $12 billion in arms this week—but the British most certainly won’t be joining the Qatar boycott.

The position is not informed by any great moral imperative, other than a sprinkling of non-interventionist laissez-faire.

The more crucial reality is, we just couldn’t afford it.

REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani smiles during a news conference at Harrods in London May 8, 2010. Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed Al Fayed has sold prestigious London department store Harrods to the investment vehicle of the Qatar royal family in a deal reported to be worth around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion).

The British establishment has always sought infusions of foreign cash. Back in the old days, this often took the form of marrying a rich American heiress (see Cora and Robert in Downton Abbey) but in recent years, the British elite have increasingly turned to the oil fortunes of the Middle East to prop up the costly habits and customs of tradition.

As in the pre-war days, the transaction is perfectly understood: the nouveau riche foreigner gets sprinkled with the antique stardust of centuries-old tradition and aristocratic life, while the British aristocrat gets to continue living the lifestyle into which he has become accustomed, unhindered by sordid concerns about his bank balance.

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