On Monday, June 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and the Maldives decided to sever their diplomatic relations with Qatar. They suddenly decided that QATAR, the tiny Emirate accused of convenience with . . . Iran and Islamist movements, the two main sources of destabilization in the region according to them, was to pay the price.
These countries have accompanied their decision of retaliation with the closure of their land and sea borders, the suspension of the flights of their airlines to Doha, Qatar capital city, the closure of their airspace to Qatar Airways, the country’s state carrier and restrictions on the movement of people. Qatar has also been excluded from the recent military coalition operating in Yemen under Saudi command. Everybody agrees that there will be no “escalation” on the part of Qatar and that it is only about forcing Qatar to fall in line.
A review of the country’s history could explain this on-going saga as since its independence in 1971, the small Emirate of Qatar plays it as it were solo.
Pearling and fishing brought populations from the nearby main Arabia peninsula as well as from across the Gulf, e.g. Iran. Bahrain had the upper hand until the Ottomans in the late 19th century decided otherwise.
In 1916, Britain and Qatar sign an agreement for the protection and control of external affairs of Qatar.
In 1939, oil reserves were discovered and became Qatar’s main source of revenue, replacing pearling and fishing.
In 1968 Britain withdraws from the gulf and Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE decide to set up a federation.
In 1971 Qatar is independent but refused to join the other principalities of the Arab side of the Gulf, who after the departure of the British, formed the UAE.
Squirmishes about borders delineations here and there between the neighbouring countries had envenomed the neighbourhood. And at the time, this refusal of moving in and join the Emirates has apparently something that Abu Dhabi, the main UAE Emirate, never taken lightly. Since then however, Qatar did not only increase in stature but went on especially in the early 1990s, to develop his immense field of gas. This gave it the means towards diplomatic activism and development of its now renowned soft power, by investing in sport, culture, museums, etc. Soft power of Qatar as symbolized by winning the hosting of the World Cup, collided in a certain way with the Emirate of Dubai, Member of the UAE ambitions.
The latest piece of news always in line with the above is Turkey throwing its weight behind Qatar. Troops will follow this decision and will presumably be stationed per the understanding on a Turkish base in Qatar.