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2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis

2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis

The 2017–2019 Qatar diplomatic crisis began in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros, Jordan, the Tobruk-based Libyan government, and the Hadi-led Yemeni government severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and banned Qatari airplanes and ships from utilising their airspace and sea routes along with Saudi Arabia blocking the only land crossing.[6][7]

The Saudi-led coalition cited Qatar's alleged support for terrorism as the main reason for their actions, insisting that Qatar has violated a 2014 agreement with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).[8] Saudi Arabia and other countries have criticized Al Jazeera and Qatar's relations with Iran. Qatar acknowledges that it has provided assistance to some Islamist groups (such as the Muslim Brotherhood), but denies aiding militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[9] Qatar also claims that it has assisted the United States in the War on Terror and the ongoing military intervention against ISIL.[10]

Initial supply disruptions were mitigated by additional imports from Iran and Turkey, and Qatar did not agree to any of the Saudi-led coalition's demands.[11] The demands included reducing diplomatic relations with Iran, stopping military coordination with Turkey, and closing Al-Jazeera.

On 27 July 2017, Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were showing "stubbornness" to Qatar and had not taken any steps to solve the crisis. Al Thani added that the Security Council, the General Assembly and "all the United Nations mechanisms" could play a role in resolving the situation.[12] On 24 August 2017, Qatar announced that they would restore full diplomatic relations with Iran.[13]

2017–2019 Qatar diplomatic crisis
Part of Qatar–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict and Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
Date5 June 2017 – ongoing
(2 years, 3 months, 2 weeks and 3 days)
  • 13-point ultimatum issued and replaced with altered conditions.[4]
  • Qatar ends its involvement in the war in Yemen[5] and peacekeeping in Ras Doumeira.
Parties involved in diplomatic dispute
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Libya (Tobruk)[b]
No longer participating:
Senegal (until Aug 2017)
Chad (until Feb 2018)
Jordan (Until 2019)[1]
Supported by:
Turkey (food aid, diplomatic and military support)[2]
Iran (food aid, airspace access and diplomatic support)[3]
aThe Government stationed in Aden has cut ties with Qatar.
bThe Tobruk-based government lost international recognition after the formation of the Government of National Accord in January 2016. The Tobruk-based government claims to have cut ties with Qatar despite not having diplomatic representation in the country.
cSomaliland's independence is not recognized by the international community.


Since he took power in 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani believed Qatar could find security only by transforming itself from a Saudi appendage to a rival of Saudi Arabia.[14] Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Doha from 2002 to 2008 to try to pressure Qatar to curb its individualistic tendencies. This approach broadly failed.[15] The Arab Spring left a power vacuum which both Saudi Arabia and Qatar sought to fill, with Qatar being supportive of the revolutionary wave and Saudi Arabia opposing it; since both states are allies of the United States, they avoid direct conflict with one another.[16] Qatar has had differences with other Arab governments on a number of issues: it broadcasts Al Jazeera; it is accused of maintaining good relations with Iran; and it has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in the past.[17] Qatar has been accused of sponsoring terrorism. Some countries have faulted Qatar for funding rebel groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front,[18] although the Saudis have done the same.[19][20] Qatar has allowed the Afghan Taliban to set up a political office inside the country.[21] Qatar is a close ally of the United States, hosting the largest American base in the Middle East, Al Udeid Air Base.[22]

March 2014 GCC Crisis

In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. This severing of relations was the first of its kind since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The disagreement that sparked the ambassadors’ withdrawal was among the most serious in recent years, and threatened to seriously undermine relations between the GCC states. The crisis certainly affected the GCC negatively at first – raising questions among member states, revealing shifts in their political agendas, and changing the balance of power in the region to some extent.[23] It also set the stage for the 2017 GCC crisis.

The exact reasons for the diplomatic break-offs are unclear, but contemporary news coverage primarily attributes this to several events in April and May 2017.

April 2017 hostage negotiations

In April 2017, Qatar was involved in a deal with both Sunni and Shi'ite militants in Iraq and Syria. The deal had two goals. The immediate goal was to secure the return of 26 Qatari hostages (including Qatari royals) who had been kidnapped by Shi'ite militants while falcon hunting in Southern Iraq and kept in captivity for more than 16 months.[26][25] The second goal was to get both Sunni and Shi'ite militants in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to pass through and allow the safe evacuation of civilians.[25] According to the New York Times, this deal allowed the evacuation of at least 2,000 civilians from the Syrian village of Madaya alone.[25] What outraged Saudi Arabia and the UAE is the amount of money Qatar had to pay to secure the deal. According to the Financial Times Qatar paid $700 million to Iranian-backed Shi'a militias in Iraq, $120–140 million to Tahrir al-Sham, and $80 million to Ahrar al-Sham.[24]

Riyadh Summit 2017

US President Donald Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the 2017 Riyadh Summit. The meeting is cited as one of the catalysts for the crisis.

US President Donald Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the 2017 Riyadh Summit. The meeting is cited as one of the catalysts for the crisis.[17]

As part of the Riyadh Summit in late May 2017, many world leaders, including US President Donald Trump visited the region. Trump gave strong support for Saudi Arabia's efforts in fighting against states and groups allied with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to an arms deal between the countries. The Business Insider reported that "Elliott Broidy a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump; and George Nader, Broidy's business partner ... pushed for anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of government, and expected large consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE."[27] Trump's support may have induced other Sunni states to fall in line with Saudi Arabia to take a stance against Qatar.[17] Trump's public support for Saudi Arabia, according to The New York Times, emboldened the kingdom and sent a chill through other Gulf states, including Oman and Kuwait, that fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.[28] The Saudi-led move was at once an opportunity for the GCC partners and Egypt to punish their adversaries in Doha, please their allies in Washington, and remove attention from their own shortcomings and challenges.[29]

Hacking of Qatari websites

According to Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the American FBI, the Qatar News Agency website and other government media platforms were hacked in May 2017, where hackers posted fake remarks on the official Qatar News Agency attributed to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Israel.[30] The emir was quoted as saying: "Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it. It is a big power in the stabilization of the region."[31][32] Qatar reported that the statements were false and did not know their origin.[17] Despite this, the remarks were widely publicized in the various Arab news media, including UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Saudi-owned Al Arabiya.[30] On 3 June 2017, the Twitter account of Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was hacked.[33]

Initially alleged intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicated that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qataris.[34][35] However, a US official briefed on the inquiry told the New York Times that it "was unclear whether the hackers were state-sponsored"[36] and The Guardian diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour reported that "it is believed that the Russian government was not involved in the hacks; instead, freelance hackers were paid to undertake the work on behalf of some other state or individual."[35] A US diplomat said that Russia and its ally Iran stood to benefit from sowing discord among US allies in the region, "particularly if they made it more difficult for the United States to use Qatar as a major base."[36] The FBI sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the hacking incident.[37] Later, the New York Times reported that the hacking incidents may be part of a long-running cyberwar between Qatar and other Gulf countries that was only revealed to the public during the recent incidents, and they noted how Saudi and UAE media picked up the statement made by the hacked media in less than 20 minutes and began interviewing many well-prepared commentators against Qatar.[38]

US intelligence agencies believe that the hacking was done by the United Arab Emirates, according to a Washington Post article published on 16 July.[39] The intelligence officials stated that the hacking was discussed among Emirati officials on 23 May, one day before the operation took place.[40] The UAE denied any involvement in the hacking.[41] It was announced on 26 August 2017, that five individuals allegedly involved in the hacking were arrested in Turkey.[42]

Hacking of UAE ambassador's email

In May 2017, the email account of the UAE's ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, was hacked. The emails were reported as "embarrassing" by Al Jazeera because they showed links between the UAE and the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.[43] Arab countries saw the media coverage of the alleged email hack as a provocation and a move orchestrated by Qatar,[44] and deepened the rift between the two sides.[45] On 9 June, Al Jazeera's media network was the victim of a cyber attack across all its platforms.[46] According to The Intercept, Yousef al-Otaiba has been reportedly linked to buy influence for UAE-led campaigns in the White House.[47]

Severance of diplomatic and economic ties

Maps showing the routes taken by Qatar Airways flights leaving Doha before and after the embargo was imposed. Data taken from FlightRadar24.

Maps showing the routes taken by Qatar Airways flights leaving Doha before and after the embargo was imposed. Data taken from FlightRadar24.

Between 5 and 6 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives, and Bahrain all separately announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar; among these Bahrain was the first to announce the severing of ties at 02:50 GMT in the early morning of 5 June.[48][49][50][51][52][53]

A variety of diplomatic actions were taken. Saudi Arabia and the UAE notified ports and shipping agents not to receive Qatari vessels or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals.[54] Saudi Arabia closed the border with Qatar.[54] Saudi Arabia restricted its airspace to Qatar Airways. Instead, Qatar was forced to reroute flights to Africa and Europe through Iranian airspace.[55] Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals.[56]

Qatar verbally criticized the ban. The Foreign Ministry of Qatar criticized the ban, arguing that it undermined Qatar's sovereignty.[57] The foreign minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said that Saudi statements regarding Qatar were contradictory: on the one hand, Saudi Arabia claimed Qatar was supporting Iran, on the other hand, it claimed Qatar was funding Sunni extremists fighting against Iran.[58]

Saudi Arabia's move was welcomed by United States president Donald Trump despite a large US presence at the Al Udeid Air Base, the primary base of US air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[59] However, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis worked on de-escalating the situation.[60] Tillerson, as the CEO of ExxonMobil, was acquainted with the current and previous emirs of Qatar.[61] A number of countries in the region, including Turkey, Russia and Iran, called for the crisis to be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

All GCC countries involved in the announcement ordered their citizens out of Qatar.[62] Three Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain) gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries.[57] The foreign ministries of Bahrain and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave their countries.[63][51] Qatar was expelled from the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and Yemen's government itself has cut ties.[57] Kuwait and Oman remained neutral.[64]

Kuwaiti mediators in Riyadh were presented with a list of Saudi demands of Qatar. These included cutting off all links with Iran and expelling resident members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Al-Jazeera network, to stop "interfering" in foreign countries' affairs and to cease any funding or support for terrorist organisations.[65]

Diplomatic activity

Turkey has supported Qatar in its diplomatic confrontation with a Saudi and Emirati-led bloc of countries

Turkey has supported Qatar in its diplomatic confrontation with a Saudi and Emirati-led bloc of countries[79]

As of 10 August 2019, seven sovereign governments have not restored diplomatic ties with Qatar.[66][67][68][69]

The Tobruk-based government of Libya claimed to have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar despite having no diplomatic representation in that country.[71][72][73]

The semi-autonomous Somali regions of Puntland, Hirshabelle, and Galmudug each issued statements cutting ties with Qatar, in opposition to the neutral stance of the federal government of Somalia.[74]

As of 10 August 2019, two countries still have downgraded diplomatic ties with Qatar without fully cutting relations.[71]

Other countries made statements condemning Qatar, including Gabon[77] and Eritrea.[78]

Multiple countries, the European Union[80][81] and the United Nations[82] called for resolution of the diplomatic crisis through dialogue:

Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar World Cup supreme committee, has stated that projects are progressing as scheduled for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar's only land border and air and sea routes have been cut off by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As the blockade came into play, World Cup organizers were asked to investigate a "Plan B", FIFA however has confidence in not exploring a "Plan B" for an alternate 2022 host. According to Thawadi, all these logistical obstacles are being overcome and building progress is continuing with only minimal cost increases, in preparation for the first World Cup in the Middle East.[109]


Global reactions

United States President Donald Trump with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, May 2017.

United States President Donald Trump with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, May 2017.

UAE and Saudi Arabia lobbied President Trump to fire Rex Tillerson for not supporting the blockade of Qatar.

UAE and Saudi Arabia lobbied President Trump to fire Rex Tillerson for not supporting the blockade of Qatar.[120]

Israel's former defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, described the situation as an "opportunity" for Israel, stating, "Some [Arab countries'] interests overlap with Israeli interests, including the issue with al-Jazeera". He went on to describe al-Jazeera as an "incitement machine" and "pure propaganda". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded al-Jazeera shut down its offices in Israel.[110]

Reports that Mauritius had cut ties with Qatar were refuted by the Mauritian government.[111][112] A report in the Saudi Gazette incorrectly stated that Mauritius had broken off ties with Qatar and that Mauritius' Vice Prime-Minister had issued a communiqué pledging his country's support for Saudi Arabia. This prompted further erroneous reports by other outlets. However, Mauritian Vice Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun in an interview with Le Défi Media Group of Mauritius refuted claims that he had issued any such communiqué, and Mauritius' Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that Mauritius continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Qatar.[111][112]

Pakistan stated that it had no plans to cut diplomatic relations with Qatar.[113] Members of the Parliament passed a resolution in National Assembly of Pakistan urging all countries to "show restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue."[100] The Pakistani Federal minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources said that "Pakistan will continue to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar."[114] A six-member Qatari delegation headed by a special envoy of the Qatari Emir visited Pakistan and asked Pakistan to play a positive role in resolving the diplomatic crisis former, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was quoted as saying that "Pakistan would do 'all it can' to help resolve the crisis," as well as calling on the Muslim world to play a role in ending hostilities.[115] A TRT report stated that Pakistan would deploy 20,000 troops in Qatar, which the Pakistani foreign ministry denied.[116]

The Philippines suspended the deployment of migrant workers to Qatar on 6 June 2017.[117] However, the next day, they allowed the deployment of returning workers and those with an Overseas Employment Certificate, but still maintained the suspension of the deployment of new workers.[118] The suspension was later fully lifted on 15 June.[119]

United States President Donald Trump claimed credit for engineering the diplomatic crisis in a series of tweets.[121] On 6 June, Trump began by tweeting: "During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!"[122][121] An hour and a half later, he remarked on Twitter that it was "good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference [sic] was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"[123][124][125] This was in contrast to attempts by the Pentagon and the Department of State to remain neutral. The Pentagon praised Qatar for hosting the Al Udeid Air Base and for its "enduring commitment to regional security." US Ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, sent a similar message.[126][127] Earlier, the US Secretary of State had taken a neutral stance and called for dialogue.[128] On 8 June, President Donald Trump, during a phone call with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, offered to act as a mediator in the conflict with a White House meeting between the parties if necessary.[129] The offer was declined, and a Qatari official stated, "The emir has no plans to leave Qatar while the country is under a blockade."[130] On 9 June, Trump once again put the blame on Qatar, calling the blockade "hard but necessary" while claiming that Qatar had been funding terrorism at a "very high level" and described the country as having an "extremist ideology in terms of funding."[131] This statement was in conflict with Secretary of State Tillerson's comments on the same day, which called on Gulf states to ease the blockade.[132][131] In 13 June 2017 after meeting with Tillerson in Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated that there was "no blockade" and "what we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right," and that the King Salman Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Relief would send food or medical aid to Qatar if needed.[133] On 21 June 2017, Trump told a crowd in Iowa that "We cannot let these incredibly rich nations fund radical Islamic terror or terrorism of any kind", noting that after his visit to Riyadh in May 2017 to meet with Saudi King Salman and urge an end to terror funding, "He has taken it to heart. And now they're fighting with other countries that have been funding terrorism. And I think we had a huge impact."[134][135]

On 8 June 2017, Egypt's deputy UN Ambassador Ihab Moustafa called for the United Nations Security Council to launch an investigation into accusations that Qatar "paid up to $1 billion to a terrorist group active in Iraq" to free 26 Qatari hostages, including members of its royal family, which payment would violate UN resolutions. The Qataris were kidnapped on 16 December 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq. The hostages were released eighteen months later in April 2017. Qatari diplomats responded to the Egyptian calls for an investigation by reaffirming their commitment to the UN resolutions towards eliminating the financing of terrorism.[136][137]

In June 2017, the government of Qatar hired American attorney and politician John Ashcroft to lobby on its behalf and help the state deny international allegations of supporting terror.[138][139][140][141]

On 24 November 2017, deputy chief of Dubai Police Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, blamed the 2017 Sinai attack on Al-Jazeera's reporting and called for the bombing of Al-Jazeera's headquarters by the Saudi-led coalition.[142][143]


Logistical implications

On 6 June 2017, Emirates Post of UAE halted postal services to Qatar.[144]

Nearly 80 percent of Qatar's food requirements come from Persian Gulf Arab neighbors, with only 1 percent being produced domestically and even imports from outside the Gulf states usually crossing the now closed land border with Saudi Arabia.[145] Immediately after the cutting of relations, local reports indicated residents swarmed grocery stores in hopes of stockpiling food. Many food delivery trucks were idled along the Saudi-Qatari border. On 8 June 2017, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, "We're not worried about a food shortage, we're fine. We can live forever like this, we are well prepared." Qatar has been in talks with both Turkey and Iran to secure supply of food. On 11 June 2017, Iran sent four cargo planes with fruit and vegetables and promised to continue the supply.[146] Turkey has pledged food and water supplies to go along with their troop deployment at their Turkish military base in Qatar.[130]

As part of the Qatari government's response to lost food imports, it provided support to domestic agricultural company Baladna, which built a new dairy farm with imported cattle that was planned to produce enough milk to fulfill domestic demand for dairy products by June 2018.[147]

Air travel

All airlines based in these countries, including Emirates, suspended flights to and from Qatar.[148][149] Gulf Air,[150] EgyptAir,[151] FlyDubai, Air Arabia, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Etihad Airways suspended their flights to and from Qatar.[152] Bahrain,[153] Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are also banning overflights by aircraft registered in Qatar (A7). Instead Qatar has rerouted flights to Africa and Europe via Iran,[55] paying a “hefty” overflight fee for each such flight.[154]

Qatar Airways in response also suspended its flight operations to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.[152][155]

Pakistan International Airlines sent special flights to bring back over 200 Pakistani pilgrims stuck at Doha airport.[156] Over 550 Pakistani pilgrims in Doha were subsequently flown to Muscat.[157]

Private jet travel is also being impacted by the crisis. Business aviation officials said private flights between Qatar and the countries that cut diplomatic ties now need to make a technical stop in a third country. Aircraft registered in Qatar cannot fly to the countries that cut diplomatic ties and vice versa. While business jet operators can request a nonstop routing, two officials said requests so far have been turned down necessitating a stop in a third country.[158]

Due to the blockade of Qatar Airways from the airspace of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, Oman Air has taken up a significant role transporting travelers from and to Doha, mostly through Iranian airspace, while still allowing Qatar passport holders to book flights. The travel embargo has had a significant impact on foreign nationals living and working in Qatar, with about 100,000 Egyptians and citizens from other countries stranded there, unable to book direct flights or obtain travel documents for their return.[159] Per request from Qatar, the blockade was under review by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN-agency seeking "consensus-based solutions" for the resolution of the crisis.

On 31 July 2017, the agency asserted its neutrality in the conflict and announced that Qatar Airways will have access to three contingency routes over international waters in early August based on a preliminary agreement reached with the Saudi aviation authority (GACA) early that month. The ICAO, based in Montreal, also reminded all member countries to comply with the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and its addenda.[160]


The United Arab Emirates banned Qatar-flagged ships from calling at Fujairah. It also banned vessels from Qatar from the port and vessels at the port from sailing directly to Qatar.[161] Similar restrictions were put in place at Jebel Ali, which pre-boycott used to handle over 85% of shipborne cargo for Qatar.[154] Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also banned Qatar-flagged ships from their ports.[162]

On 8 June 2017 shipping giant Maersk was unable to transport in or out of Qatar entirely. Due to Qatar's shallow ports, large cargo ships are required to dock at Jebel Ali or other nearby ports where a feeder service transports the goods into Qatar.[163] In response, Maersk and Swiss-based MSC[164] vessels for Qatar were rerouted to Salalah and Sohar in Oman.[165] Particularly smaller shipments of perishable and frozen foods have taken that route.

On 12 June 2017, Chinese shipping company COSCO announced suspension of services to and from Qatar. Taiwan's Evergreen Marine and Hong Kong's Orient Overseas Container Line have already suspended services.[166]

Media ban

Hamad Saif al-Shamsi, the Attorney-General of the United Arab Emirates announced on 7 June that publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar through social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form is considered illegal under UAE's Federal Penal Code and the Federal law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. Violators of this offense face between 3 and 15 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 500,000 emirati dirhams ($136,000) or both.[167] Bahrain also issued a similar statement with a penalty up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine.[168]

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE all blocked access to Qatari news agencies, including the controversial Qatar-based Al Jazeera.[169] Saudi Arabia shut down the local office of Al Jazeera Media Network.[54] The BBC speculated that changes to Al-Jazeera would be a necessary part of any peaceful resolution.[170]

The Qatar-based beIN Sports channels (a spin-off of Al Jazeera) were also initially banned in June in the UAE.[171] The following month, the UAE restored normal access to beIN Sports channels via its local telecom providers.[172][173] In Saudi Arabia, the channels remain banned, while a large-scale signal piracy operation known as "beoutQ" has made the channels' content available.[174][175][176][177] In 2018, in parallel with the diplomatic crisis and piracy issues, Saudi officials also began to accuse beIN Sports of having a monopoly position in sports broadcasting in the region, including revoking its broadcast licenses based on accusations of anti-competitive behaviour, and pulling its rights to the Asian Football Confederation in the Kingdom in 2019. beIN Sports has considered the moves to be politically-motivated.[178][179][180]

In a July 2019 development on the issue, sports bodies in-charge of Premier Leagues and Champions Leagues, collectively condemned beoutQ in a letter urging it to end the piracy of TV streaming service that has been illegally broadcasting matches globally through Arabsat – a 21-member country communications satellite operating headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The sports bodies to issue the letter included, Uefa, Fifa, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and AFC, condemning the legal issues surrounding beoutQ's piracy broadcast for approximately 18 months.[181]


The International Monetary Fund said it was too soon to judge the economic impact of the diplomatic crisis.[182] Standard & Poor's downgraded Qatar's debt by one notch from AA to AA-.[183] Qatar's stock market dropped 7.3% on the first day of the crisis, and reached a 9.7% drop by 8 June 2017.[184] Additionally, in the first months following the crisis the government of Qatar injected $38.5 billion, which was equivalent to 23% of the country's GDP, to support the country's economy and its banking sector.[185]

As per S&P Global Ratings, banks in Qatar are strong enough to survive a withdrawal of all Gulf country deposits.[186]

Despite the ongoing diplomatic blockade led by Saudi Arabia, international banks like HSBC, Goldman Sachs and others are trying to repair their ties with Qatar by building stronger financial and business relations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates informally warned the bankers not to have close relations with Doha or else there would be consequences.[187]

On 20 January 2019, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attended the opening session of the Arab Economic Summit in Beirut, Lebanon. This helped Qatar increase its influence and soft power in the region. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz were the only two Arab leaders to attend the summit. Since Sheikh Tamim was the only GCC leader to attend, he received praise from the President of Lebanon himself, Michel Aoun. Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said “He became the star of the summit."[188]


Qatar is a global leader in liquefied natural gas production. Despite the severing of ties, Qatari natural gas continues to flow to the UAE and Oman through Abu Dhabi based Dolphin Energy's pipeline.[189] The pipeline meets about 30–40 percent of UAE's energy needs.[190] Shipping constraints from the crisis have also rerouted multiple shipments of oil and gas to and from the Gulf, which has caused reverberations in many local energy markets. On 8 June 2017, gas futures spiked nearly 4 percent in the United Kingdom, which had nearly a third of all its imported gas arriving from Qatar.[191] A secondary effect of the dispute has been on worldwide supplies of helium, which is often extracted from natural gas. Qatar is the world's second largest supplier of helium (the US ranks first).[192]

In March 2019, Qatar lodged a complaint to International Atomic Energy Agency regarding the United Arab Emirates Barakah nuclear power plant, stating that it poses a serious threat to regional stability and the environment. The UAE denied that there are safety issues with the plant, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) with operation by French utility Électricité de France, and stated “The United Arab Emirates ... adheres to its commitment to the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation.”[193]

23rd Gulf Cup

The 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup was scheduled to be hosted in Qatar. In November 2017, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain pulled out of the Gulf Cup due to the Qatar boycott.[194] On 7 December 2017, it was announced that Kuwait will host the football tournament after Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all withdrew because of the diplomatic crisis.[195]

Qatari military relations

Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar

Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar

Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) in Qatar provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and 17 other nations.

Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) in Qatar provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and 17 other nations.

On 7 June 2017, the Turkish parliament passed, with 240 votes in favour and 98 against, a legislative act first drafted in May allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar.[196][197] During a speech on 13 June 2017, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned the boycott of Qatar as "inhumane and against Islamic values" and stated that "victimising Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose".[133] On 23 June 2017, Turkey rejected demands to shut down its military base in Qatar.[198]

Qatar hosts about 10,000 US troops at Al Udeid Air Base, which houses the forward operating base of United States Central Command that plays a commanding role in US airstrikes in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.[199][125][200] A Pentagon spokesperson claimed the diplomatic crisis would not affect the US military posture in Qatar.[125][121]

On the 10th and 11 November 2018, the Italian Air Force along with the Qatari Display Team, perform an airshow at the corniche that confirms the bonds of friendship between Italy and Qatar.[201]

On 30 January 2018 an inaugural United States-Qatar Strategic Dialogue meeting was held, co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs[202] Khalid al-Attiyah and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The meeting expressed the need for an immediate resolution of the crisis which respects Qatar's sovereignty. In a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, the United States expressed its readiness to deter and confront any external threat to Qatar's territorial integrity. Qatar offered to help fund the expansion of facilities at US bases in Qatar.[203][204]

On 25 March 2018, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) officially denied rumours that the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar will be closed due to the ongoing regional conflict.[205]

On January 2018, Qatar's ambassador was in talks with Russia with the intent to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles. Both countries signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation in 2017. In May 2018, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported that King Salman of Saudi Arabia would take military action if Qatar installed the Russian air defence system. However, a senior Russian official remarked the system would still be delivered even against the will of Saudi Arabia.[206] The Saudis were themselves approaching Russia to improve economic and military ties in 2017, but talks relating to the arms deal were hindered by concerns the United States and Saudi Arabia had with regard to the Russian position towards Iran's military and strategic involvement in the Middle East.[207]

On June 2018, Qatar expressed its wish to join NATO.[208] However, NATO declined membership, stating that only additional European countries could join according to Article 10 of NATO's founding treaty.[209] Qatar and NATO have previously signed a security agreement together in January 2018.[210]

On 18 September 2018, Qatar finalised a deal to purchase Eurofighter Typhoon and BAE Hawk aircraft in a deal reported as being worth £5Bn.[211]

In June 2019, as Qatar completed two years under the diplomatic embargo, the country received its first five of the 36 purchased Rafale fighter jets from France. The first aircraft was formally handed to Qatar in February 2019, but was kept in France itself before being delivered on 5 June 2019.[212]

Arab League Council 2017

During the 148th Session of the Arab League Council at the level of Foreign Ministers which was held in Cairo, Qatar’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sultan Al Muraikhi, got into a heated argument with Saudi delegate Ahmad Al Qattan. Al Muraikhi said: "Ahmad Al Qattan's tone was very threatening and I don't think he is capable of being responsible for his words." Ahmad Al Qattan interrupted Al Muraikhi, and said “No I am capable.” Things escalated when Al Muraikhi said “When I speak, you stay quiet.” Al Qattan replied, “No you stay quiet.” The Iraqi delegate tried to be the mediator in this back and forth argument. The ministers of the three blockading countries of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had their say by backing Ahmad Al Qattan. This was all caused after Al Muraikhi gave a short speech about how Qatar had to go back to supporting Iran after it cut its ties to support Saudi Arabia. He adds that Saudi Arabia brought in a person from the Qatari royal family and made him look like he was the future ruler of Qatar. The argument continued for around forty minutes.[213]

2019 Asian Cup

During the semifinal match between the Qatar national football team and the tournament hosts the United Arab Emirates, the UAE supporters threw shoes and bottles onto the pitch. This conduct was preceded by booing the Qatari national anthem. Qatar won 4–0, paving the way to their first Asian Cup final and eventual title.[214][215][216][217]

A British-Sudanese football fan was allegedly beaten by fans for wearing a Qatar football shirt to a match in which Qatar was playing and then, after investigation by the UAE police, arrested for wasting police time and making false statements of being assaulted.[218] According to The Guardian, the fan was arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt.[219][220][221] The claim was denied by UAE authorities who stated the fan was arrested for wasting police time and making false assault claims to the police. The UAE police said that the fan had admitted to making false statements. A UAE official in London stated “He was categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt. This is instead an instance of a person seeking media attention and wasting police time.”[222][223][220][221] According to photos shown by The National, fans were seen waving the Qatari flag and wearing Qatari football shirts without any instances of arrests in the final.[224] According to The New York Times, the UAE accuses Qatar of fielding ineligible players due to them being not originally Qatari. The players accused were the competitions' top scorer Almoez Ali, a Sudan born striker, as well as Bassam Al-Rawi, an Iraq born defender.[225]

Demands on Qatar and responses

On 22 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain issued Qatar a list of 13 demands through Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator, that Qatar should agree in full within 10 days, which expired on 2 July 2017. According to reports on 23 June, these demands included:[226][227][135]

  • Closing Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.

  • Closing other news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.

  • Closing the Turkish military base in Qatar, and terminate the Turkish military presence and any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.

  • Reducing diplomatic relations with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.[228]

  • Expelling any members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and cutting off military and intelligence cooperation with Iran.[229]

  • "Qatar must announce it is severing ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al Qaeda's branch in Syria" according to one Arab official.

  • Surrendering all designated terrorists in Qatar, and stopping all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists.

  • Ending interference in the four countries' domestic and foreign affairs and having contact with their political oppositions.

  • Stopping granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

  • Revoking Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries' laws.[228]

  • The payment of reparations for years of alleged wrongs.

  • Monitoring for 10 years.[226]

  • Aligning itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.[228]

According to a report by the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera, "Qatari officials immediately dismissed the document as neither reasonable or actionable." Iran denounced the blockade. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that some of the demands would be very hard to meet but encouraged further dialogue.[230]

On 3 July, Saudi Arabia accepted a Kuwaiti request for the deadline to be extended by 48 hours.[231]

On 5 July, foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain met in Cairo after receiving a response from Qatar to their list of demands. The meeting aimed to resolve the dispute ended in a stalemate when Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the political and economic boycott of Qatar will remain until it changes its policies.[232] Also on the same day, the Saudi-led bloc said it no longer insisting it to comply with its 13 specific demands they tabled last month. Instead, it asked Qatar to accept six broad principles, which includes commitments to combat terrorism, extremism, to end acts of provocation, and incitement.[4]

However, by 30 July 2017, the 13 demands had been reinstated.[233]

See also


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