Qatar was accused of supporting terrorist organizations by three other Middle Eastern powers early on Monday. Along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt was a strong voice of dissent. The move was made over Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which the others view as a terrorist haven. Qatar acknowledges the Muslim Brotherhood as the world’s oldest Islamic movement, an obvious traditionalist view in a rapidly changing world.
This news comes with immediate consequences for the Middle Eastern world (and everywhere else). Transport between the three dissenting countries and Qatar will be immediately shut down, providing those Qatari citizens already present in their countries no more than two weeks to get out before the authorities come knocking on their doors. In a slightly more drastic move, the Saudi faction fighting inside of Yemen will be now be exempted of any Qatari involvement.
Economic impacts will likely radiate across the region, but their immediate impact won’t be known until the days pass. For now, some air travel between these countries is unavailable and flights have been canceled or delayed.
This is not the first time such chaos erupted between these once strong allies. In 2014, similar allegations erupted against Doha, but travel was not shut down nor were Qatari citizens forced to leave the countries involved.
In addition to the impending economic consequences of this cataclysm, diplomatic relations between other countries will be greatly affected. These same countries are accustomed to swinging their fist of financial and political might to hold sway over countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. This will be a lot more difficult when they cannot stand as one.
More importantly, Qatar is a big player on the world stage. It is scheduled as the home of the World Cup in 2022 and always houses a noteworthy U.S. base.
The move to split with Qatar might be exacerbated by Egypt’s own attempts to curb terrorism in the Middle East. The new leader of Hamas made a trip to Cairo on June 4 in order to discuss relations with security officials in Egypt. These kind of talks are rare for both sides, and this meeting represents the first in several months time. Among the topics under discussion are humanitarian considerations along the Gaza Strip, including the opening of travel for Palestinians who are currently cut off by a joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade.
The reason these actions are so significant is this: Hamas recently ended its relationship with the same Muslim Brotherhood which Qatar supports in a move to better its relationships with Egypt. Additionally, it announced its efforts only to end the Israeli occupation as a Palestinian movement.
According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the feud between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Qatar should not change the U.S. stance on the conflict with Islamist militants. In a familiar and time-honored tradition, Washington maintains that the Gulf allies (and all Middle Eastern countries currently fighting to maintain stability and end the disarray) should come together as one and fight the good fight. What will actually come to pass remains to be seen?