AP News Guide: What to know about the year-old Qatar crisis
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The diplomatic crisis gripping the energy-rich country of Qatar will enter its second year on June 5.
Here’s a look at the ongoing dispute, the worst to grip the Gulf region since Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
A COUNTRY TARGETED
Qatar is a nation about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, which juts out like a thumb on the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf. It has the highest per-capita income in the world due to its natural gas reserves, the third-largest on the planet after Russia and Iran. Just over 10 percent of its 2.2 million people are Qataris, with the rest foreign workers. Its people follow an ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism, though unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, women can drive and foreigners can drink alcohol. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
A WIDENING GULF
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar on June 5, 2017, just after a summit in Saudi Arabia in which Gulf leaders met with President Donald Trump. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the small country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.
They say the crisis stems from Qatar’s support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. The four nations have also pointed to Qatar’s close relationship with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore gas field that provides the peninsular nation its wealth. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute.
A LIST OF DEMANDS
Boycotting countries’ demands include limiting diplomatic ties to Iran, shutting down the state-funded Al-Jazeera satellite news network and other media outlets, and severing ties to all “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It also demanded Qatar expel the Turkish troops now stationed in the country, as well as pay reparations for alleged damage inflicted by its policies. Qatar rejected the demands as violations of its sovereignty.
A DIPLOMATIC DANCE
Kuwait has sought to mediate the crisis, sending its 88-year-old emir shuttling between the countries involved. The countries have meanwhile sent emissaries abroad to brief foreign leaders and speak to journalists, as well as spend millions on Washington influence firms and advertising.
The U.S., which has some 10,000 troops stationed at Qatar’s sprawling al-Udeid Air Base as part of its campaign against the Islamic State group and the war in Afghanistan, also has sought to end the crisis. The U.S. military has said it would stop holding some exercises for Gulf countries as a way to pressure those involved to end the dispute.
Trump initially made comments in which he appeared to side with the boycotting nations, complicating mediation efforts. A Trump-prompted call Sept. 9 between Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman broke down in mutual recriminations. More recently, the U.S. has been urging the boycotting nations, namely Saudi Arabia, to resolve the crisis. Trump welcomed Qatar’s emir to the White House in April.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
It’s unclear what, if anything, will end the dispute. The Arab nations could launch financial sanctions, though Qatari investments around the world include Harrods department store in London, Volkswagen in Germany and the company owning New York’s Empire State Building. They could attempt to block Qatari shipments of liquefied natural gas, though that could spark hostilities.
Qatar likewise could shut down an undersea natural gas pipeline running to the United Arab Emirates, a crucial power source for a desert nation that relies on desalination plants for water and air conditioners to cope with the scorching heat.
Meanwhile, Qatar and the boycotting Arab nations continue to needle each other through local media. One Qatari exile has suggested a “bloodless coup” to replace Doha’s leadership, while Saudi Arabia has promoted little-known Qatari ruling family members.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jongambrellAP . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .