Monday, June 5, 2017

Six Arab Countries Cut Ties With Qatar

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to mediate a diplomatic impasse after six Arab nations announced they were cutting ties with Qatar, which they accused of supporting terrorism. Tillerson said it is important for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council to "remain unified" (NYT) after members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (BBC), along with Egypt, Libya, the Maldives, and Yemen, broke diplomatic relations with Qatar. Four of those countries blocked Qatar-based Al Jazeera (BBC) two weeks ago. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE gave all Qatari visitors in their countries two weeks to leave, and Gulf countries closed their airways and seaways to Qatar (FT). The Qatari foreign ministry said the accusations “have no basis in fact” and the rupture is a violation of Qatari sovereignty (Al Jazeera).
"Last month, Qatar’s state-controlled news agency posted comments purportedly from its emir that praised Iran and called Hamas the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Qatar said its state news agency had been hacked, but Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt nevertheless blocked the websites of several Qatari news outlets," Sarah McFarlane and Jenny W. Hsu write for the Wall Street Journal.
"The United States uses bases in several of the countries to launch air operations against the Islamic State extremist group, and has its headquarters for the air war at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Qatar has for years drawn the ire of Arab neighbors for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated Sunni Islamist groups as well its sponsorship of the Al Jazeera television channel, which hosts frank discussions of politics in the region while also amplifying Qatar’s pro-Islamist views," Kareem Fahim writes for the Washington Post.
"The Qatari quarrel is highly visible and has gone on before. It's a repeat performance of the 'uppity' Qataris' challenging their bigger brother. More quietly, Oman has also distanced itself from the Saudi bloc. Sultan Qaboos did not attend the Riyadh summit and his representative did not get a short bilateral meeting with Trump, as did all the other GCC representatives. Oman has stayed out of the Saudi war in Yemen and has kept open its ties to Iran," Bruce Riedel writes for Al-Monitor.