Monday, June 05, 2017

Why Did Several Arab Countries Suddenly Cut Ties With Qatar? - Foreign Policy

Five Arab countries — six if you count one of Libya’s rival governments — suddenly cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing the small Gulf state of backing militant groups including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, a move that could potentially complicate the U.S.-led coalition against terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain first cut ties on Monday morning. Egypt, Yemen,Libya’s interim government, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), encouraged by Saudi authorities to do the same, quickly followed suit, preparing to expel diplomats, close off borders, and institute a travel ban on flights to and from the country. Kuwait and Oman are the only Gulf Cooperation Council members retaining ties.

The tiff is ostensibly over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood — which the Egyptian government considers a terrorist organization — and Al Jazeera, a Qatari media network often critical of Saudi and Egyptian authorities. But tensions have been simmering between Qatar and its neighbors for years, primarily over Qatar’s open conduit with Iran, Riyadh’s geopolitical archrival.

Those tensions boiled over in recent weeks. Gulf allies blocked Al Jazeera after Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani allegedly criticized Saudi Arabia on state media outlets while calling for improved ties with Iran. Nonsense, Qatar said: Those comments were fake. According to Doha, Qatar News Agency, which disseminated Thani’s remarks, had been hacked.

In a statement, the Qatari foreign ministry expressed “deep regret” over the move by its neighbors to sever ties and to close its borders. The statement described the moves as  “unjustified” and “based on baseless and unfounded allegations.”

The embassies of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and the UAE did not immediately respond to request for comment.

There seemed to be a sixth country cutting ties with Qatar, after reports emerged that the Libyan government had also done so. But the Libyan Embassy in Washington clarified that the interim government in eastern Libya cut ties with Qatar; the internationally-recognized U.N.-brokered Government of National Accord has not.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of financing extremists and “supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain,” in a statement Monday.

Tensions in the Gulf could be a headache for the Pentagon. Qatar and its neighbors are key to the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East. Qatar hosts the Al Udeid air base, from which the U.S. launches airstrikes against the Islamic State. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which patrols the wider Middle East and parts of the Indian Ocean. - Read More

Why Did Several Arab Countries Suddenly Cut Ties With Qatar ...


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