The current political crisis in Qatar is quickly becoming one of the worst the country has faced in years. Qatar remains isolated after several of its Arab neighbors cut diplomatic ties and shut down transport links because of a reinvigorated political dispute. Doha has been accused by fellow Sunni Islamic States Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and others for alleged material and political support of terrorist groups within the region. It has also been accused of cooperating with the Islamic Shia state of Iran in ways that go above and beyond the economic and political models that these Sunni states have adhered to for years.
These Gulf States currently involved in the boycott against Qatar have ordered the expulsion of Qatari citizens from their countries, while concurrently requiring that their own nationals have left Qatar by the 17th of June; a deadline that if not met would be punishable by law upon reentry. Over 11,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE currently reside in Qatar, and this cessation to the freedom of movement has caused a stir in the regional economic arena. This is also occurring in a part of the Arab world where intermarrying is relatively common between Gulf State citizens. There are close to 6500 families involved that have one spouse who maintains Qatari citizenship and face being split apart until conditions improve.
Qatar is hardly the only country in the region that can be accused of supporting non-state actors that have both direct and indirect ties to internationally recognized terrorist organizations and activities. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Turkey, Russia and even the United States have been accused in return by Qatar for their alleged international involvement with regional and international terrorism.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also joined with the Gulf States in their collective action, and accusing Qatar of “historically being a funder of terrorism, at a very high level”. This positioning by the U.S. comes as it has closed another military arms deal with Qatar, which includes the sale of 36 F-15 fighter aircraft that are worth $12 billion. This arms deal stresses the complex position that the U.S. has found itself in. The U.S. is forced to balance its fight against international terrorism on one hand, and maintain its relationship with its current Arab allies by not sending mixed signals on the other. The U.S. command center for operations against the Islamic State, along with a highly strategic airbase, as well as over 10,000 U.S. troops makes Qatar a significant political and military concern for the U.S. in its Middle Eastern foreign policy.
Some of the alternative trading partners that Qatar is currently engaged with as an attempt to help mitigate the affects of the boycott include the Cross-Gulf States of: Iran, Pakistan and India. Qatars Northern ally, Turkey, pledges that it will continue to export to Qatar as it has for years, albeit now at a significantly increased rate given the circumstances. Qatars geographic location and economic model makes it such that it is almost entirely dependent on the importation of nearly all of its foodstuffs for sustenance; a variable that the states currently engaged in the boycott against Qatar are hoping to use to their advantage in future negotiations.
Qatar has long been aware of its susceptibility in relying on imports from both its near abroad and far abroad in order to sustain itself. Despite its dominance as the worlds 3rd largest supplier of oil and natural gas, and 1st in liquified natural gas, Qatar has more recently made significant gains in strengthening its non-oil sectors that include: Manufacturing, construction, and financial services. This has led the other components that comprise Qatars GDP to steadily rise to just over half of its total gross domestic product. Qatars GDP as of 2016 was pinned at $334.5 billion, and the states investments abroad currently amount to nearly $500 billion. These investments make up an extremely diverse portfolio – from financial institutions to real estate in some of the worlds wealthiest countries.
Qatars largest air courier, Qatar Airways, is also one of the many targets of this political crisis. The airliners CEO, Akbar al-baker, has publicly expressed concerns how the couriers fleet of aircraft have been illegally blocked from international airspace during time of peace; something that is unprecedented in modern air travel to this scale. The airline conducts an average of 50 flights a day to neighboring countries, with many analysts estimating a fall in the carriers revenues by between 20-30 percent because of this blockade.
The current political crisis in Qatar is ultimately more a result of long existing geopolitical quarreling, rather than any immediate regional or international security concerns; contrary to the current narrative that is being pawned off by the majority of news media outlets. This economic siege against Qatar by its Arab neighbors is strategically aimed at altering the status quo in the relations amongst these states, and has a strong politically motivated agenda behind it. Qatar continues to stand behind its position of not negotiating with its Arab neighbors until the blockade is lifted by the participating states. Qatar is also still set to host the 2022 FIFA word cup, a highly anticipated international event that the country has spent millions in preparation for. Aside from accusations and the regional boycott currently being waged against it, Qatar seems to be secure from any further significant increases in duress and dysfunction in the short to medium term future.