The de facto diplomatic, political and trade embargo imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Yemen raises many questions. Qatari food security, construction materials, and other vital imports as well as Qatar Airways operations, are key challenges. Concerns are rising over gas supplies from Qatar as the country is the fourth largest gas producer globally. 25% of UK gas consumption is supplied by Qatari LNG. Japan is another large importer. Even the UAE depends heavily on Qatari gas imports. The building supplies for the 2022 World Cup facilities mainly cross into Qatar through the now closed Saudi-Qatari land border, the only land border that Qatar has, prompting worries regarding whether they can still host the World Cup should the blockade last for a prolonged period.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, leaders of this blockade, consider the twin challenges of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood/Islamist extremism as existential and strategic threats. Qatar has cozied up to Iran, as the two share a massive gas field in the waters of the Gulf and has supported the Brotherhood in Egypt (in the run up and during the Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt under deposed President Mohammed Morsi) and in Libya. Qatar also has supported Hamas and reportedly financed the Al Qaeda affiliate in the Syrian conflict, Jabhat Al Nusra currently known as Jabhat Fath Al Sham. Qatar’s media, principally Al Jazeera TV, has been a thorn in the side of the other Gulf States as well as Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan. The embargo is the culmination of over 20 years of simmering tensions and resentment between Qatar on one side and the GCC and Egypt on the other. It is telling that Saudi Arabia officially cited the “protection of (Saudi) national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism” as the main reason for cutting off diplomatic relations with Qatar and blockading it on land, sea and air. Qatar Airways was forced to cancel over 50 flights daily and will have to reroute its flights to Europe and elsewhere using much longer routes. Qatari nationals were given 14 days to leave Saudi and the UAE.
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