Diplomatic Rift Between Gulf Arab Allies And Qatar Presents Fresh Challenges


Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain until further notice.

Countries in the Gulf are key to the US-led coalition against ISIS, with Qatar hosting the U.S. military's Al Udeid Air Base, the main regional center for daily air missions and coordination of all air operations.

Saudi Arabia has severed all land, sea and air links with Qatar, and the UAE has closed its airports and harbors to Qatari flights and shipping.

Saudi Arabia said it was cutting ties due to Qatar's "embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region", including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and militants supported by Iran in the kingdom's restive Eastern Province.

Iran is the main regional rival of Saudi Arabia, which hosted the Arab Islamic summit where both Saudi King Salman and US President Donald Trump attacked Tehran for inciting unrest in the Middle East.

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The decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain plunged the worldwide travel hub into chaos and ignited the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Gulf since the 1991 war against Iraq.

Kuwait is trying to mediate a diplomatic crisis in which Arab countries have cut diplomatic ties to Qatar and moved to isolate the energy-rich, travel-hub nation from the outside world, Qatar's foreign minister said early today. Such measures are unjustified and are based on baseless and unfounded allegations.

They accuse Qatar, which supplies roughly a third of global LNG - natural gas that has been converted to liquid form for export - of supporting extremism.

"I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism in the region or globally", he told reporters while on a visit to Australia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asked Monday in Australia about the possible ramifications about the Gulf states' rift, said that "what we're witnessing is a growing list of irritants in the region that have been there for some time".

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Yemen's internationally backed government, which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the war-torn country, also cut relations with Qatar, as did the Maldives and one of conflict-ridden Libya's competing governments.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia shut down the Qatari broadcaster in its territory and took it off the air.

However, analysts say the rift is also driven by the belief that Qatar is too closely aligned with Iran. Within hours of the decision to sever diplomatic ties with Doha by Saudi Arabia and others, Qatari stocks tumbled over 7 percent.

But the bottom line, Roberts notes, is "there's been a feeling for decades that Qatar is an individually focused state doing what it wants to do, and hasn't paid enough attention to GCC security issues".

The Pentagon said Saudi Arabia meant to use the radars to support its border security by locating the source of incoming artillery, rockets and mortars and defending against them. The Saudi-Egyptian move coincided with two important developments in the region: 1- It took place right after a major $110 billion weapons deal between the US and Saudi Arabia.

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