On Monday the 5th of June, the Arabian Gulf was hit with the biggest political crisis it has seen in years. One by one, some of the Gulf countries surrounding Qatar extinguished their diplomatic links with the nation over its alleged support and funding of terrorist groups.
Egypt, Yemen and other Arab nations followed, taking similar measures. There are now air, sea and land blockades, physically isolating Qatar from the rest of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states. The immediate aftermath of the event saw Qatari nationals, who were living in other Gulf countries, forced to return to Qatar. Other Gulf natives who were living in Qatar were asked to return to their respective countries as well.
In terms of the media, those living in the Gulf who sympathise with Qatar on social media are at risk of paying a hefty fine or even serving a jail sentence. Al Jazeera, the Doha based news outlet, has been suspended in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. There has been an outcry following this because many feel it’s criminal to stifle a voice in a region of little freedom of expression.
One interpretation of the crisis suggests that Qatar is being used as a scapegoat which the rest of the Gulf can blame for funding terrorist groups ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Those who believe this find it convenient that just a few weeks before, President Trump was on his world tour in Saudi Arabia, one of the first countries to indefinitely cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Although, this is just an insinuation that leaders of the US and Saudi have conspired against Qatar. However, another interesting point is that in the days following, the UK had its general election, the result of which led Theresa May to form a coalition. Many across the country have been disappointed with this, one of the reasons being her stance on the relation between terrorism and immigration. The prediction is that Trump, May and possibly other world leaders will involve themselves in the Qatar crisis and leave a legacy, not unlike that of the Bush-led war-on-terror which was backed by Tony Blair.
Another explanation suggests that Qatar’s funding of terrorism is merely a façade for the real reason behind the tensions in the Gulf. The country’s gas dominance is what actually pushed the Saudi-led league of states to sever ties with their sister nation. The conflict dates back two decades, a period of time over which Qatar has fast become the region’s crude oil powerhouse. However, this isn’t dismissive of the irritation that is felt by Qatar’s neighbours over its foreign policies with Hamas in Gaza, Shia rebel groups and the Muslim Brotherhood. This only fuelled the resentment towards Qatar and was a smaller factor that led to the current Gulf crisis.
The UAE’s foreign minister is reported to have said that the blockade will last ‘years’. However, Qatar is unwilling to negotiate until the blockade is lifted. Qatar is likely to rely on Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, should the boycott continue.
Featured image © Joe Unsworth