Gulf Crisis One Year on: Qatar Needs its Neighbors

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Photo: World Atlas
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Photo: World Atlas

The four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt’s blockade on Qatar has dragged on for a year by now with no sign to end disappointing Qatar’s persistent endeavor to get over with it.

The ‘Gulf Crisis’, as dubbed in the world media, began on June 5 last year in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan after four Arab countries, simultaneously, announced to sever all forms of diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The blockading neighbors of Qatar accused Doha of supporting ‘terrorism’ and destabilizing the region. Defending the decision to sever ties with Doha, Riyadh said the blockade was imposed to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

Following the footprints of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan also announced to scale back its diplomatic ties with Doha. Saudi Arabia continued to influence different Muslim-majority countries in Asia and Africa to follow the lead.

The blockading countries demanded Qatar to comply with 13 conditions including shutting down of Al Jazeera news channel and closing the military base of Turkey in Qatar to start a negotiation to end the blockade.

Doha refused to abide by the harsh conditions and said the demands were unrealistic and not actionable. They accused Riyadh of attempting to impose custodianship over Qatar. The country accused the actions taken by the blockading countries have “no legitimate justification rather they sought to infringe on its sovereignty.”

Qatar has been trying to get rid of the impacts of the blockade since the outset of the crisis with rapid efforts through its engagement with the international community to diffuse the gulf tension.

The international community including the U.S., European Union, and Turkey endeavored to put an end to the regional conflicts in Gulf that Doha says ‘serves nobody’s interest’. Kuwait has been at the frontline of negotiations between the conflicting nations as the Emir of Kuwait traveled the severing nations and Doha to find a solution.

But all those efforts failed to put an end to this unprecedented crisis in the Gulf and no sign of an immediate breakthrough could be expected even after a year of stalemate passed by.

Qatar deserves a loud cheer for its endurability and sustainability in the face of such big crisis. But they will also have to ensure a regional foreign policy that strives to normalize the mutual relations among the Gulf states and bring back trusts among the people of the gulf.

As a result of the blockade from its immediate neighbors, especially from Saudi Arabia, Qatar encountered threats of food shortages.  The small but gas-enriched country in the Gulf used to depend heavily on Saudi Arabia for food supplies that abruptly stopped due to the blockade.

Qatar, however, avoided potential shortages of foods after Turkey and Iran sent immediate supports. Planes loaded with foods arrived in Doha from Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and India immediately after the beginning of the blockade.

Qatar went through some instantaneous economic loss because of the blockade as the Qatar Airways, the country’s national air carrier, had to change its route and lost access to major 18 cities in the blockading countries. Given the diplomatic ties between the countries were severed, business was badly impacted for Qatari citizens were expelled from the blockading nations.

To get rid of the adversities inflicted by the blockade, Qatar sought to develop different trade links and flight routes. Qatar also sought to develop dairy products on its own to avoid food shortages in the long run.

Being the host nation of 2022 FIFA world cup, Qatar was assumed to suffer because of this blockade as most of its flexible routes were shut.  But this gas-enriched opulent Gulf country somehow managed to continue its preparation for the 2022 FIFA world cup.

In contrary to the fears as international community assumed, Qatar proved its persistence and endurability defying its major powerful neighbors in terms of food security, economic sustainability, and national security. Qatar spent a fortune in terms of national security and made several military deals with the U.S. only a week after Donald Trump openly supported the Saudi bloc.

In terms of Qatar’s engagement in Yemen war, the blockade helped the country to get out of a mess that Doha says they reluctantly joined to please Saudi Arabia. It also ensured that the ‘independent’ foreign policy of Qatar will not be negotiated because of Saudi influence.

Brushing aside all of these, the impacts of the blockade on Qatar, undoubtedly, hinders the overall prospect of the country’s potential ascension as one of the top economic superpowers in the world.  Surrounded by the hostile neighbors and absence of any land border because of Saudi blockade will not allow Qatar getting rid of a sense of uncertainty- and this is no good for international investors.

Except for Egypt, three other blockading nations especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are big economic powers of the Middle East. Even though Qatar demonstrated its ability to transform the crisis into opportunity in some extent, the country cannot mark the same progress as it can do with a healthy engagement with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Qatar deserves a loud cheer for its endurability and sustainability in the face of such big crisis. But they will also have to ensure a regional foreign policy that strives to normalize the mutual relations among the Gulf states and bring back trusts among the people of the gulf.

About Masum Billah 37 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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