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The Dimensions of Qatar's Diplomatic Blockade

June 30, 2017

AFP VIA THE NATIONAL

The recent diplomatic blockade ‘organised’ by Saudi Arabia and its allies actually shows the staunch vulnerability in the gulf region. The series of events bubbling up one after the other in quick succession is quite hard to digest. The pivot point of the circus of events was an alleged statement given by the Emir of Qatar which triggered a backlash from Saudi and Emirati media outlets. The Qatari government denied the claims, claiming that their national news agency, QNA was hacked. However, shortly thereafter, what is perhaps the most shocking diplomatic blockade of the recent times was drawn on the Qataris. Citizens residing in these countries were given a two weeks ultimatum to leave Saudi Arabia and its allied countries, flights including Etihad airways, Emirates etc. were abandoned in the region and all the diplomatic officials were removed from Qatar. 

 

This was not an impulsive reaction, but rather a result of tensions built up for quite sometime, involving contradictions in terms of foreign policy. This is centered around two blocs who want to exercise power, diplomacy, and domination in the gulf region. One, which is led by Saudis and involves countries like Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and Iraq has always been against the second which is led by Iran, Turkey and others due to various historic and diplomatic reasons. In the course of the events of the past decade, these two blocs have always managed to be the two different sects of any regional political/diplomatic issue be it the Arab spring of 2011, political crisis in Egypt and Yemen, or terror organisations like the Muslim brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah. While Qatar never seemed to belong to any of the blocs openly, its recent stances on political issues suggests a tilt towards Iran. That’s why the comments allegedly from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, which appeared on the Qatari news agency website describing Iran as a "major force to ensure stability in the region" and defending Hamas and Hezbollah came as an agnostic blow to the Saudis, although Qataris denied the claim.

 

The speed and intensity of the reaction by Saudis can be attributed to the visit of Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia just a week before announcement of siege. His speech regarding condemnation of “Islamist extremism and terrorism” and his tweets before and just after the siege like; “...extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” clearly signals out what made King Salman act at a decisive speed. But interesting to note here is, allegedly it has been claimed that King Salman and Crown prince Muhammad Bin Nayef are not on the same page regarding the Qatar issue which suggests that it can be political supremacy move between the two major political heads in the Saudi Arabia. 

 

Although the major powers of the world suggested to broker peace between Qatar and others, nothing seems to happening at the moment. An all-out economic halt which was aimed by the Saudis and others initially is not looking as rigorous as it was projected. The local people are a bit amazed at seeing the label of ‘Made in Turkey’ instead of ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ at their shopping markets but economic support from countries like Turkey, Iran and India etc. has not let the Qataris lifestyle much harm. The blockade may not heavily impact the everyday life of a Qatari, but it definitely creates a rift in the GCC alliance. One would hope GCC ties should not be too damaged through these events or the impacts could reach worldwide as a result of shifting oil prices. 

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