Ferment in the Gulf

Ferment in the Gulf

Representational image (Photo: Getty Images)

The predicament of Qatar, the world’s richest country in terms of per capita income, goes beyond its borders. In point of fact the Gulf contends with the biggest diplomatic crisis, of a kind that is rather unusual in the contemporary context of international cooperation. It is not often that a nation is reduced to a state of unsplendid isolation by no fewer than six others in the region. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the strife within Islam has intensified in the holy month of Ramzan. The Concert of Arab Nations and presumably led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt has severed ties with Qatar, accusing the country of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups. The geopolitical crisis deepens with the expulsion of diplomats and the dislocation of land, air, and sea traffic routes.

The timing of Monday’s diplomatic blitz is unmistakable ~ 48 hours after London suffered yet another terrorist outrage and in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Given its rich reserves of oil and gas, the decision is bound to affect the people of Qatar no less severely, as well as the Middle East and the Western bloc in the wider canvas. Almost immediate will be the impact on food supplies in a country largely dependent on imports from its neighbours. Fears of a food shortage are dangerously real as Saudi Arabia has sealed its land border in parallel with the reprisal. It would be presumptuous to imagine that the severance of ties will minimise the fundamentalist zeal to kill and kill with abandon. The dispute with Qatar is believed to have led to the worst crisis in the Gulf since the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981. The concerted reprisal is an anathema to cooperation. Both in terms of domestic turmoil and foreign policy, the Gulf is today as fractious as it is strategic. Matters would appear to have come to a head over Qatar’s support of Islamist movements, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Doha’s fairly cordial equation with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival.

Markedly, Qatar has not rebutted the charges. But the Emirate’s claim does call for reflection by the Arab region and the comity of nations in the wider perspective ~ “The state of Qatar has been subjected to a campaign of lies that have reached the point of complete fabrication. It reveals a hidden plan to undermine the country and its sovereignty,” has been the official reaction. Though the UAE, Yemen, the Maldives, and the government in eastern Libya have joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the essay towards a remedy must lie through negotiations, and not severance of ties and connectivity. Qatar is much too resourceful to wilt in the wilderness.

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