Citing concerns about Qatar‘s alleged sponsorship of terrorism, the Arab nations of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all severed diplomatic ties with the country on Monday morning, ending a 36-year period of cooperation between the Gulf states and throwing an already unstable region into further turmoil.
CNN reported on Monday that the four nations chose to cut ties with the small Persian Gulf nation based on support from the Qatari government in Doha for the regime in Iran, a long-time rival in the Arab world of the Saudis. The controversy began in late May when Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani allegedly made comments praising Iran as an Islamic power in the official news agency of Qatar. The Emir and the Doha government claimed their website was hacked, but the other Arab nations responded by banning Qatari media outlets from their functions.
With the four Arabic nations apparently seeing no progress and growing frustrated with the Emir’s alleged ties to Tehran, they chose to act on Monday, with the three Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE acting together in severing diplomatic ties. The three nations are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council along with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, which has served as a cooperative effort between the six nations on the Arabian Peninsula, but might be facing serious issues now given this diplomatic dispute.
Egypt, which is not part of the GCC, claimed that the Qataris had taken an anti-Egyptian course and that its efforts to discourage support for terrorism from Doha had failed, leaving this as the necessary move.
With four of its neighbors now refusing to recognize diplomatic relations with Doha, things could become much more difficult for Qataris. Already, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been told they must leave Qatar as soon as possible, giving just 48 hours for them to exit the eastern Gulf nation. Qatari citizens will also be removed from these nations and returned to their home nation, and will have 48 hours to return to the offending country. Emirates Airlines has announced it will suspend all flights to and from Doha once appropriate to do so.
One change that has yet to be addressed is whether this will impact the World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Qatar in 2022. Such a situation is most likely to have an effect on the Saudis, who would be likely to qualify for the World Cup that year. No country has boycotted the World Cup since the African continent boycotted in 1966, but with no diplomatic relations with Qatar in place, the Saudis might choose to sacrifice the glory of the World Cup to maintain their positions on an international stage.
Are you surprised to see the four Arab states sever ties with their neighbor? What does the result tell you about the region? What should Qatar’s reaction be? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell