The underlying tensions between Qatar and its three neighbors has been going on for more than two decades. What is the event, though, which has led to one of the biggest diplomatic crises of the 21st century? What is the reason behind the recent developments in the Arab peninsula? Why did the states of the Gulf decide to cut all of their diplomatic ties with Qatar? That and many more, have been the questions which have risen throughout the crisis which sparked on the morning of the 5th of June after official announcement of the Doha – based and state – funded broadcaster and news agency, Al Jazeera. The events which carried such a crisis are seemingly never ending, with development taking place every day.
How did it all start?
The small emirate of Qatar, located in the Arab peninsula is surrounded by fellow Arab states, all of which are well – known for their development of oil and other such activities. Qatar has created a legacy of its own regarding oil activities but not only. It has long practiced a different foreign policy and tactics than its fellow member states, something which hasn’t gone undetected. The priorities the nation has set throughout the year have rather angered the fellow Gulf nations in the recent years.
The first issue seems to be the support Qatar has shown throughout the centuries to Islamist groups. The nation itself has admitted providing help to such groups, one of them being the Muslim Brotherhood but has categorically denied providing help to other terrorist groups such as the so – called Islamic State (IS) and have denied preserving links with other notorious terrorist organizations such as al – Qaeda.
The second issue which has bothered the states of the Gulf more than the aforementioned point seems to be the relations Qatar has with Iran throughout these years. These two states share together the largest gas fields worldwide. Aside from such fact, one of the most powerful nations of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, has had several disputations with the Shia Muslim power of the Middle East over the years for various reasons.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic ties with their Gulf neighbor on the morning of the 5th of June. These three states gave 14 days to the Qatari citizens to exit their borders and return to their country, with the same applying to diplomats and ambassadors of the state. Egypt was the fourth state which severed its diplomatic ties with Qatar, but allowed to its citizens to remain within the Egyptian borders.
Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern based government were the other three nations which followed the footsteps of Egypt by applying a suit.
Not only did the first three states severe their diplomatic ties with Qatar, but they denied access to any aircraft by any Qatari company for the days to come. By denying access to their airspace, Qatar’s airlines and airspace companies are left contained and “trapped” in a very small area, a fact which will make all flights towards all destination lengthier as well as it will have a serious impact on Qatar’s national airlines.
The next serious move came from Saudi Arabia regarding the airline company Qatar Airways. The kingdom demanded the closure of the airlines offices within the county’s borders as well as the closure of the only land border the two nations shared on the northeastern part of the kingdom.
Two members of the Gulf and of the Gulf Cooperation Council, namely the GCC, didn’t make any move on severing their diplomatic ties. Kuwait and Oman remain unmoved regarding the diplomatic crisis which has sparked in the Gulf. On the contrary, Kuwait has offered to act as the “diplomat” in this issue and has not made any move regarding issues of diplomacy.
The impact of the crisis
Just like any diplomatic crisis and any such issue, the impact within the national borders was of utmost importance and of great concern to the international community. The population of 2.7 million people within the Qatari borders is strongly dependent on its fellow Gulf neighbors as far as food and water supplies are concerned. It is strongly related to its eastern neighbor Saudi Arabia as far as the 40% of its food is concerned.
Within the borders of the nation, the supplies at supermarkets and local markets started being diminished with the food crisis reaching its final breaking point. This led to Qatar requesting help from its neighbors Turkey and Iran, which rushed to provide help and solve the issue at hand. The Hamad Airport at Doha lost its rush of people and became one of the quitter airports worldwide, what with the crisis and controversy which arose for the national airlines as well. Around 18 regional flights had to be cancelled by Qatar Airways, an event which caused unrest and sparked criticism. Qatar’s market lost about 10%, which is around $12 bn., which is in market value and took place within the first days / week of the diplomatic crisis.
The positive side of such a crisis is that the market has recovered around 6% and the exports of liquefied gas haven’t been affects at a very large scale. The emirate’s finance minister recently stated that “the nation has enough resources to defend its economy and position in the global market”.
What is it that the neighbors want?
In order for the relations to return to where they were before the diplomatic crisis, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain requested from Qatar to carry out certain measures which would benefit all of the Gulf States.
Such actions involve the severing of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Iran, the limiting of the support Qatar is showing towards terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, ISIS and al Shabab in Lebanon, the closure of the news organization Al Jazeera, the ending of any at all military or other operation taking place between Turkey and Qatar within the latter’s borders as well as the aligning of Qatar with its fellow Gulf neighbors politically, financially, socially and diplomatically. This is the so called “list of demands on Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the neighbors” or simply “the 13 – point list”. They were presented to the government of Qatar on the 22nd of June, just 17 days after the diplomatic crisis sparked such controversy and concern.
On the 18th of July, the Gulf States realizing that Qatar is unable to pursue all the 13 points within the list, demanded that at least 6 points within the list be granted in order for the crisis to be resolved. Another point that was mentioned was that, in order for Qatar to be added to the list of the neighboring and allied Gulf States, it should have at least a common path down which all of the Arab States will walk together.
In the 21st century, this has been one of the most severe diplomatic crises which has caused unrest in the international community as a whole. Where will this situation lead to? What do the leaders of the three Arab States actually seem to request from Qatar? Why does the area around the Gulf seem to have frozen over these events?
As aforementioned, the diplomatic crisis which has sparked is not only one of the most crucial events in the headlines of every news broadcasting company worldwide right now, but it involves various states. One could have thought that the issue refers only to the states around the Gulf and the ones composing the GCC. However, it isn’t referring only to such states even to the slightest degree. It involves Iran, the US with its new leader being especially interested in the events taking place in the Middle East at this time as well as other large powers such as Lebanon and Syria, with their terrorist groups which are allegedly empowered by Qatar. We can also detect the fact that this crisis will only expand more and cover more ground rather than being minimized by the efforts of any member state, such as Kuwait which is willing to try and work as the diplomat between the other Arab States. The fact that the crisis will not come to an end any time soon is also due to the fact that the deadline of the 13 – point list was at July 8th. The answer of Qatar, though, towards such a list of requests was simply regarded as something “extreme, impossible and facts which were meant to be rejected”, just like the Qatari minister of foreign affairs stated to the Kuwaiti mediators.
So far, the efforts both by Kuwait but also by the side of the United States have been rejected and disregarded as something useless. The gap between the states of the Gulf seems to be widening with Qatar being in the center of such a chasm and Saudi Arabia being the cause for the creation of such a wide diving line.
The results of such a crisis are tremendous. The GCC seems to have been divided after years of progress and work in the Arab Peninsula. When it was established back in 1981, no one would have thought that a diplomatic crisis 36 years later could be the end of such an organ. This separation will mean that the Arab peninsula will be divide into three large blocs: the one will involve Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain which are the countries which supported the sparking of such crisis from the very beginning. As a second bloc we will see Qatar being on its own and being support by its non – Arab supporters, Iran and Turkey and finally, we will see the third bloc with the neutral ones of the crisis, with Kuwait and Oman, the states which mainly want to maintain neutral but also positive relations with all of their Gulf neighbors.
The only one who will benefit from all this situation might be the Islamic State, always ready to plan an attack anyplace and anytime. The willingness to gain by exploiting from the enemies around it is notorious and therefore will benefit greatly from such a crisis in the midst of an era of terrorism and fear among nations.
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“Qatar Crisis: What You Need to Know.” BBC News. BBC, 19 July 2017. Web. 25 July 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40173757>.
Gardner, Frank. “Qatar Crisis: After the Deadline, What Next?” BBC News. BBC, 03 July 2017. Web. 25 July 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40474767>.
Originally published at Libe (https://libeofficial.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/the-qatar-diplomatic-crisis/)