The world woke up to a rude shock when Saudi Arabia along with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members United Arab Emirates and Bahrain joined Egypt in severing all ties with Qatar. They have not only cut diplomatic ties with the tiny Gulf state but also discontinued land, sea and air connectivity thus bringing movement of people to a grinding halt. Many flights emanating from these locations have been cancelled along with a two week ultimatum given to Qatari nationals who are living there to return to their country.
The list of members behind this ban is all set to grow with latest reports indicating Yemen and Maldives also joining the alliance. It is important to introspect as to what contributed to this crisis in the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia and GCC Countries Cut ties with Qatar
It had all started with a sustained and elaborate fake news campaign. Just like the U.S. and the more recent French elections, the Qatari establishment had been a victim of inaccurate information. Articles had surfaced quoting Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the country’s ruler, as saying Iran is an Islamic power that cannot be ignored and also endorsing close ties with Israel. These were not wild rumors circulating in the corner of an isolated website but instead reported by Qatar’s official news agency. The following day, the government had stepped in by saying its news agency had been hacked and discredited the legitimacy of the comments made by their ruler.
They had also attributed some of the controversial tweets from their news agency to an attack from malicious hackers. Those tweets had apparently quoted Qatar’s foreign minister of accusing Arab states for plotting against their country.
While, these pieces of news information had been vehemently discredited by the Qatari government, the damage had already been done. Saudi Arabia spearheaded the diplomatic stand-off against Qatar by also taking into account the latter’s support for Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority and its disapproval of the military led coup in Egypt which has close ties with Saudi. While the long term impacts are difficult to speculate upon at this stage, the immediate impact will primarily be felt by the common man. Not only will this affect the internal movement of people traversing through the region but also the far bigger expat community for whom Qatar is a foreign home in itself.
The state of Qatar could also be staring at an ouster from the GCC which could severely dent its economic and political clout. The country has always punched above its weight in international arena with it scheduled to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Such immediate severance of ties by prominent regional powers will surely have an adverse impact on this oil rich country’s image and its influence both in the Arab and international community.