As the Qatar blockade enters the fifth month, more twisted details are trickling in. The latest one comes as quite a shock, as it has been revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) drew up a plan for waging a vicious financial war against Qatar.
The plan was found in UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba's email account and passed on to Global Leaks. The daring blueprint has now been accessed by The Intercept.
Qatar has been having issues with its neighbouring nations, who have accused the country of funding terrorism, but it looks like UAE doesn't want to indulge in any kind of war with the nation. Instead, the email shows that the UAE intends to attack Qatar's financial systems and bring down its economy by targeting its currency.
The strategy is said to have been prepared by Luxembourg-based private bank Banque Havilland and intends to manipulate the nation's bonds and derivates. Banque Havilland has, however, denied the reports. As per the strategy, the value of Qatari bonds would be brought down and insuring them would be made difficult. This, in turn, would create a financial crisis in Qatar and also decrease the cash reserves.
"Control the yield curve, decide the future," reads the planning document, according to the Intercept, who also spoke to two market experts regarding the plan and its feasibility. "I can't believe they put this on paper," one of the experts told the Intercept. "They are talking about colluding to manipulate markets."
The website then also got in touch with Edmund Rowland, the CEO of Banque Havilland, UK, and asked about the plan drawn up by the bank to which he said: "We've never done anything. I can't make any comment."
While it is not known if this plan has already been put into action, many believe that it would not fetch any major result, especially in terms of financial gains. "It is very difficult to manipulate a sovereign [country's] yield curve," Frank Partnoy, a finance and law professor at the University of San Diego who formerly structured derivatives at Morgan Stanley, told the website. "This belongs in a James Bond movie but probably wouldn't work very well in practice."
The UAE may not be aiming for any financial gain, but through the strategy, it is likely to get an upper hand, in terms of its standing before the international community. "Focus on the prospect of restricted access to US Dollar and now-doubtful stability of the country," the plan reads. "And ... continue to increase positions."
Meanwhile, after the blockade, Qatar too has been trying to appease the international community with one programme after another. On August 9, the country announced a programme through which it will allow a visa-free entry to the citizens of 80 countries, including India. Citizens of Europe, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa and many more will now be able to attain tourist visas on arrival in the Gulf country.
"The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region," Reuters had quoted Hassan al-Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at Qatar Tourism Authority as saying in Doha.
Before that, the country passed a draft law which would grant permanent residency to some of the expats living in the country under certain criteria.
While UAE's plan seems quite elaborate, feasible or not, the main target of it is strangely the 2022 FIFA World Cup that Qatar is set to host. The strategy aims to prove to FIFA that Qatar doesn't have enough financial resources to build the required infrastructure or host the officials and players. "If Qatar now spends its reserves on protecting the currency and domestic credit markets, there is less dry powder to fund the infrastructure spending," it says.
As per the plan, the UAE aims to push FIFA to let the Gulf Cooperation Council which, apart from Qatar, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to host the games instead of just Qatar. "An appeal to FIFA will be to display football as a tool to stabilise the region," the strategy says. "The GCC can petition FIFA to grant the tournament to the region as a whole."
Meanwhile, Qatar has already been dogged by issues surrounding the football world cup. The country has been accused of ill-treating its migrant workers readying venues for the mega show. Amnesty International had earlier said that migrant workers readying the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup have been facing "appalling treatment."
The NGO for human rights had spoken to 132 contract workers readying the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and 102 landscapers working at the Aspire Zone sports complex and they said that they have faced human right abuses of some form or the other, reported the Guardian. These abuses ranged from being forced to live in dingy and seedy homes to working in extremely high temperatures.
"My life here is like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I first complained about my situation, soon after arriving in Qatar, the manager said, 'If you want to complain you can, but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar, be quiet and keep working.' Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and continue working," one of the workers had said.