Rashid bin Safar Al Hajri makes statements to “Al Sharq”:
By:Muhammad Magdy Zahran
Mr. Rashid bin Safar Al Hajri, president of the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies, stressed that the scent of blood is smelt from the Arab world regions and the wounds of war leave deep scars in its torn body after the political turmoil and future vision fluctuation. However, as it is always the case, the Qataris stand fast, ready and on alert.
Al Hajri added that “we, like medication, have a solution to whatever problem we face. Hence, the Qataris are now establishing the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies, which is regarded as the first of its kind in the Middle East and is specialized in dispute settlement. The establishment of the Center proves that the creative Qatari mind is aware of the dangers and perils surrounding the Arab region in parallel to its capability of taking real measures and procedures to achieve a more stable future for the peoples of the Gulf and Arab region. Through this Center, Qatar provides an academic neutral vision of the whole world while, at the same time, provides political solutions based on expertise of specialists and researchers in the fields of political sciences and international affairs. This arises as a serious attempt to strengthen security and to maintain the region’s strength and cohesion. The next lines unfold some of the secrets, predictions, and visions that enrich the mind and provide solutions. Hence, through this report, let’s go deep into the Center and delve into its details”.
With great ambition, we went to the Diplomatic Center, located on the blue waters of the Arab Gulf, to meet Mr. Rashid bin Safar Al Hajri, president of the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies to ask him about his vision of establishing the Center. Mr. Rashid began his speech by saying that it is the first independent research center in the Middle East with its specialization in dispute settlement. This is due to the lack of such type of specialized centers in the region taking into consideration that our Arab world is witnessing a turning point in its history. It is a detour abounded with conflicts and skirmishes from different political and economic parties. Mr. Rashid also emphasized that the Center is globally distinguished by its researches and studies which analyze the Arab political and economic conflicts and disputes and their impact on security, economic, and political stability. The Center is also distinguished by providing its researches with data on such issues as diplomacy arts, mediation, and international arbitration as well as its weekly publications and its assessment for political and economic stances. The Center provides other researches and discussions in the six UN adopted languages; namely, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian, as well as the Arabic and English languages. On top priorities of the Center’s researches are those concerned with such issues of interest to the international and public opinion. To achieve this end, the Center depends on a strong database as well as its links with a number of Gulf and Arab thinkers and researchers. Among these researches is the research conducted by Dr. Nadia Mustafa, Professor of international relations and former head of political sciences department, at Cairo University. The research is entitled “The Region’s Situation under the International Alliance against ISIS and Arab Revolutions”. The research discusses the alliance against ISIS and the features of the phase as well as the regional reaction and the Gulf solidarity to combat terrorism. The research also discusses the reaction of some countries such as Egypt, Iran, and Turkey, to say nothing of such issues of importance to the international political scene. Another research is conducted by Dr. Sharifa Fadel Mustafa, professor of political sciences of Port Said University. The research tackles the Turkish role as well as Arab national security strategy. Through this study, professor Sharifa tries to shed light on the Turkish role in the Arab national security strategy and what it means to develop a strategy for such an issue. The study also tries to draw out the elements of this strategy as well as investigating the role played by regional powers such as Iran and Turkey in this contextual situation. The study tries to highlight the Turkish role in the Arab region and the orientations of the Turkish-Arab relations by revealing indicators of that directive. This is similar to the conceptual reading of the religious dimension in international relations conducted by Dr. Essam Abd El Shafi, Director of Researches and Studies in the Center. This continuous effort reflects the Center’s insightful vision which aims at raising the knowledge level in such fields of politics and economy to provide a rich and fertile environment for building national leadership in different fields and specializations relying on planning, study, and qualification; all of which are under the slogan of “No future without planning and no planning without study, and no study without awareness, and no awareness without preparation and qualification”. This reflects the prevailing spirit and vision which the Center believes in and which provides every good not only to the Gulf and the Arab region, but also to the whole world.
Mr. Rashid continued to say that this Center enhances Qatar’s position to follow up its leading role in the Arab region, in general, and the Gulf region in particular. Conforming on the same line of thought, Dr. Essam Abd El Shafi – Director of Research and Studies – added that the Center’s priority is foreign issues and their related latest developments. He also clarified that the Center’s members are now preoccupied with strategic studies that are rare in the Arab Gulf region, defining the strategic report as a report covering a specific phase, often a year. The strategic report tackles a specific issue facing one of the Gulf Council’s countries or the Council as a whole. A comprehensive coverage for such an issue ranges starting from presenting research papers and political or economic assessments down to monitoring the most important latest developments that the region witnessed. These efforts fall under the umbrella of supporting decision making. Dr. Essam also stressed that the Center does not only resolve disputes, but also targets rooting this kind of science via the Center can provide a comprehensive, scientific and practical expertise. Moreover, he pointed out a very important topic that the Center largely depends on efficient Qataris who represent 50% of the organizational structure of the Diplomatic Center.
It is no secret that Arabic peoples are still suffering from a distorted vision and hence, they are not able to decide whether they are going to survive or not. Dr. Essam adds that there are expected changes in the Arab region’s map and that studies predict that some countries would simply disappear while other small entities would emerge, suggesting that Syria is one of the countries that may disappear soon or be divided along with Iraq and Yemen. He points out that the idea is not a question of disappearing from the geographical map as much as a question of renaming or restructuring or dividing the country into pieces. Hence, it is likely that great powers would disappear from the region. He also reassures that the coming ten years will witness many radical changes as per many files. It is no doubt that countries’ policies have greatly changed a year after the Arab revolutions due to the great challenges and chaos as well as the political imbalance that faced Arab peoples and governments. This, in turns, leads to the deterioration and change of the Arab balance of power. The Center’s role, in this case, is to provide an integrated, objective, and academic view and not to prevent division. We are not the decision makers, but one of the mechanisms of solution. However, I interrupted Dr. Essam, asking him about the probability that the Arab region may witness mass demonstrations accompanied by new revolutions that would correct the path. He answered that it was likely that the Arab Spring countries would witness a correction of the revolution path. He referred to the Libyan status quo as a top case, which suffers from unstable security conditions. He also added that some peoples would revolt against their governments to overthrow and depose them owing to the state of chaos and suffocations these peoples live in. However, he clarified that some countries can control the state of chaos while others cannot; hence, there is a possibility of new revolutions and dethroning whole regimes.
Then, I asked Dr. Essam whether things had gone out of control or not. As per this, he assured that it was not over yet … and that everything could be fixed. However, the question is who is in control, is it an international or regional power that takes control of some files while losing such control on others? Dr. Essam, Director of Research and Studies, then reassured that the current situation is linked to the relative weights of the regional powers and how they list their priorities, dealing with issues in the region.
Arab Spring Countries, Where do they Go?
We asked Dr. Abd El Shafi about the academic vision and to describe the situation in Yemen. He replied clarifying that what is happening in Yemen is a significant challenge for the Gulf region and which requires more cooperation as well as genuine awareness of the weak and strong points in addition to the challenges that would appear as a result of that situation. He pointed out that the Center’s role concerning this issue is to provide in-depth researches and studies by neutral experts whom the Center can provide for decision makers as well as informative databases to achieve effective solutions. In this connection, he referred to Egypt as a country associated with many files affecting neighboring countries. He also said that Egypt has special importance, especially in relation to its regional role with the rest of the Arab countries. However, what ranks Yemen in the forefront is the priorities since the situation there represents a big danger to the GCC. This is due to the spread of Yemenis in the Arabian Peninsula countries. Therefore, the political instability in Yemen has its bad consequences on the stability of the rest of the Gulf countries. Nevertheless, it should be noticed that, due to Egypt’s importance, any change in the Egyptian issue greatly affects many Arab countries. The case is similar with the Libyan issue due to the factors that unite the Arab world since the Arab region constitutes a geographical and cultural region, which makes the whole Arab nation fall under the same threat. The instability of one country is negatively echoed on the rest of the region’s countries. That is why the Center pays great attention to face these threats and challenges in a purely academic way, which can determine the disputed parties and offers the how of resolving it.
Syria has not recovered yet from that bloody scene that started since 2011 with its following bad consequences, which pose a real threat and constitutes instability to the whole Arab world. Investigating the Syrian situation, Dr. Essam said there is a great danger that besieges the Syrian Republic and endangers the public security of the Arab world and the Gulf countries. He added that Syria’s position is very influential as Syria – along with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria – is one of the main pillars on which the Arab region depends. He pointed out that the multiplicity of sects in Syria does not necessarily lead to the path of no-return. The multiplicity of ethnics and religions is not a source of concern and tension, but what is the most important is how to tackle the issue in light of such multiplicity and sectarian diversity. But unfortunately, it seems that Syria is approaching a dangerous swamp of deadlock from which there seems no hope of return; it will be lost in the dark.
Tunisian Matrix, Is it a Success or a Failure?
Many of the laymen consider the Tunisian revolution a kind of success. However, when we mentioned that view to Dr. Essam Abd El Shafi, professor of political sciences, he denounced such view adding that we cannot describe the Tunisian situation as a success or a failure. In other words, we can give an exact description of that experience only after relying on a set of criteria that raise questions among which is whether the democratic change is stable, smooth, and peaceful or not? In such case, we can call that experience a success. However, if we are talking about a reproduction of an ousted regime, then we can call it a failure. Therefore, it is the scientific criteria that determines to what extent the Tunisian revolution has succeeded or not. Hence, when – in reply to Dr. Abd El Shafi’s talk – I asked him a question whether Tunisia has returned to the zero point again or not, to which he completely denied. Dr. Abd Shafi elaborated his answer by citing the political latest developments and the great public awareness of the democratic change and the return of the opposition to the political street with much freedom; a freedom that was absent before Bou Azizi, but nevertheless is now present and consolidated with the public imposing their opinions in many political positions, regardless of the validity of those positions. Consequently, we can say that it is no way ignoring the public’s opinions any more. In connection to this point, Dr. Abd El Shafi stressed that the Center does not adopt a specific position and does not take the side of this or that party as the Center does not exceed the limits of academic unbiased research. Before we start work, we put aside any affiliations in order to work objectively. However, the Center may become in the future one of the mechanisms of reconciliation, conflict resolution, and dispute management as well as convergence of views.
The threat continues and the Arab body is still bleeding. ISIS is still considered the biggest and most dangerous threat despite the international alliance to confront it. Dr. Essam adds that ISIS poses a great challenge that stems from its future plan to alter current stable political borders of the region. The threat also comes from the organization’s orientation, its tools and those who stand behind as well as the aims targeted by the organization. To confront that organization, the Center provides extensive studies and pure academic analysis to determine its intellectual standpoints, its ideological structure and the structure of its members and affiliates. Most importantly, the Center also tries to determine those who stand behind that organization and its supporters on the intellectual, political, or economic levels. All such issues require serious study and more scientific rooting, based on the fact that ISIS became a legend despite being newly established since July 2014. However, it grew in power in a way that occupied the minds of many people and raised their questions. This current threat is a top concern for the Center since it is a danger that particularly besieges the GCC and sends a warning message to the Arab nation in general owing to the organization’s frequent statements regarding the GCC. After that point, I began to talk about how the Center deals with the Iranian threat to the Gulf. I intentionally used the word “threat” to discover to what extent the Center is unbiased. Dr. Essam, with careful selection of his words, responded to me by saying that the Center cannot describe the Iranian-Gulf interaction as a threat, since this would be against the Center’s neutrality and its academic principles. He emphasized that the Iranian issue is dealt with as a geographical neighbor of the Arabian Gulf region, reassuring that the Center does not deal with Iran as a threat, but as a neighboring, adjacent country, which has many related disputed and cooperative issues with the Gulf countries. The disputed issues need to be settled, while the cooperative ones need to be enhanced. Dr. Essam also denoted that the Iranian Republic has much regional and political influence; hence, the need to address its different stances scientifically to be able to suggest clear academic visions that enhance the strong points and address the weak ones in the Gulf-Iranian relations.
Rashid bin Safar Al Hajri, president of the Diplomatic Center, said that he was one of the ambitious young people; so, he was keen on taking advantage of the opportunities the State provides. Al Hajri stressed that the State always does its best to establish generations of illuminated young Qataris and to qualify Qatari personnel capable, in practice, of bringing about the aspired change for the nation and the whole Arab world. For that reason, Mr. Rashid had the intention to do something beneficial to his country. Hence, he started studying diplomacy in Westminster University in the U.K. where he got his higher diploma. Then, he studied business administration with strong determination to get a Master’s degree from Cambridge University. Holding that degree, he went back to his beloved homeland to spread what he had learnt. He then held several prestigious governmental positions. In addition, he had several writings and he is the author of the book entitled “The Art of Protocol and Diplomacy”. Having gained all this experience, Mr. Rashid had the idea of establishing this Center. He says I felt that there is a dire need for establishing such centers, especially at that time which is heavily full of conflicts and disputes. He also added that the Arab world, in comparison to other parts in the world, abounds with conflicts and sectarian strife as well as other old and new forms of conflict. Mr. Rashid went on to say that among the reasons for conflict in our Arab world is the weakness of diplomacy and negotiations as well as the weakness of the Arab mentality in finding the appropriate solutions since the timing of 1940s. Therefore, the Center is then trying, at the present time, to address the causes of the weakness of the Arab mentality which brought about lack of schools of thought that are capable of solving our problems. Hence, we always resort to foreign schools of thought that led, within the course of time, to our failure in negotiations and resolving disputes. But with the famous proverb “Do as the Romans do”, Mr. Rashid raised the question “what is the solution, then”?
In his opinion, the solution lies in creating an Arab mindset capable of depending on itself and not on others. Then, in a low voice, Mr. Rashid added “We are now covertly working on a research and we do not want the matter to be broadcasted on the media. The research is based on how to create this kind of mindset by preparing good negotiators who can take control of future issues. This research will add much and will benefit the whole region greatly”. He emphasized that this piece of information is one of the work secrets; however, “Al Sharq” managed to get it as a scoop to provide the reader with a comprehensive view and to fulfill our promise to convey whatever predictions the Center has, concerning the Arabs’ future. Mr. Rashid also added that the Center will provide courses as well as granting degrees of MA and Ph.D. theses on the issue of creating an Arab mindset owing to the lack of such corpus in the Arab region. These forthcoming courses distinguish the Center and make it transcend traditionalism.