Qatar Crisis

Cameron Soltys - 4A Mechanical
Posted on: June 17, 2017


Qatar is an oil-rich country located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf. The peninsula sticks out from Saudi Arabia, the local power broker. Qatar is also close to the small island nation of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), both in close geographical proximity to Saudi Arabia. On the other side of the Persian Gulf is Iran.

Recently, a number of countries, lead by Saudi Arabia, have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and set up an embargo against the country. The reason given for this is Qatar’s support of extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State (ISIS). This is a frequent charge against Qatar; the US has accused Qatar of financing Syrian extremists and Hamas (the political and military authority of the Gaza Strip), and of not doing enough to prevent ISIS and al-Qaeda from fundraising within its territory.

It is widely-speculated that Al-Jazeera, the Qatar state-run news agency, is also a focus of the crisis; it has a history of criticizing other Arab leaders and is accused of being a propaganda outlet. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari emir, sees his country’s news agency as a positive force for including content such as political debate, and as necessary for his goal of modernization: for instance, Al-Jazeera was instrumental in spreading the events of the Arab Spring.

The current crisis was probably precipitated by a number of factors. For one, Saudi Arabia may have been emboldened by the recent visit of U.S. president Donald Trump. After the crisis began, Trump tweeted in support (and claimed credit for) the embargo. For another, Saudi Arabia has a number of other issues with Qatar: it accuses Qatar of supporting Houthi rebels in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia supports the government. Additionally, Qatar recently announced its intention to work with Iran to develop a very large natural gas deposit in the Persian gulf between the two nations, ending a self-imposed ban on the development. The relationship between Sunni Muslim Qatar and Shia Muslim Iran weakens the importance of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Arab countries. The oil development will also make Qatar more of an economic rival to Saudi Arabia, as opposed to the subordinate vassal it was in the past.

The Crisis

A variety of counties in the Middle East and north Africa have joined Saudi Arabia in ending diplomatic relations with Qatar, most notably Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt. These nations set up a travel embargo. Qatar and its supporters—Turkey, Iran, and Russia—accuse the Saudi bloc of setting up a blockade. The Saudis dispute this, stating that they are imposing an embargo within their rights. It is the opinion of this author that, given the reports that “direct shipping routes” which don’t visit any counties except for Qatar will be used to bring in supplies, it is not fair to call the activity a blockade; that implies that all Qatar-seeking ships will be stopped by Saudi-aligned forces. That being said, since Qatar’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia, the embargo could have significant economic and humanitarian consequences that approach those of a weak blockade.

Qatar’s allies have been quick to respond. Turkey passed a resolution to send troops to Qatar in a show of support. Turkey and Iran are making plans to airlift supplies to Qatar to alleviate the effects of the “blockade.” Qatar and its allies have called on Saudi Arabia to end its embargo to stop a humanitarian crisis. While it is certainly possible that Qatari citizens are, or will soon be, suffering from a lack of foodstuffs and other essentials (thus necessitating the airlift), reports of humanitarian suffering seem to be focused on the forced reparation of Qatari citizens to Qatar and the effect that that is having on families and jobs.

The U.S. has found itself in an uncomfortable position due to this crisis. While Trump has put his weight behind Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a strong ally of the U.S.. It hosts 10 000 American troops and has been a crucial supporter of the U.S.’s anti-ISIS activity. Furthermore, it was announced on Thursday, July 15th that the U.S. had signed a $12 billion with Qatar for F-15 jets. This follows a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia during Trump’s visit a few weeks before.

This crisis is ongoing, and it is not clear when or how a resolution could been reached. Kuwait has taken up roles as mediators between the two sides. Saudi Arabia has promised to provide a clear list of demands; Qatar had cited a lack of clear demands as one of the major complications that was impairing a resolution. Outside countries look on with concern; the region around Qatar is typically relatively stable and calm, so destabilization could have global political ramifications.

One Comment

  • On September 9, 2017 at 12:26 pm Abhigyan Kishor said:

    im an intl student from qatar in the computer engineering stream 8 program. Honestly, Saudi has made a big issue of a small problem by imposing the embargo. many saudi immigrants, uae immigrants, some close friends of mine were stuck in qatar because their passports were cancelled after qatar gave them refugee status. the same also happened to the qatari immigrants. however life in qatar was hardly affected by the crisis.
    very happy with the way shiekh tamim dealt with the false accusations of saudi arabia by taking a strong humanitarian side. what is more impressive is the fact that shiekh tamim was only appointed last year but he shows responsibility and promise far beyond his age.

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