No End In Sight For Blockade Against Qatar

Over a year since the implementation of official sanctions on Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have released statements reaffirming their support for the ongoing blockage. Released on Tuesday, November 27th, the statement emphasized that the two states would not be altering their stances towards Qatar. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are only two of a group of Qatar’s Middle Eastern neighbours that severed diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions in June 2017, and, over a year since the announcement of a blockade, there seems no end in sight for the regional dispute.

Almost a year and a half since the initial dispute began, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have jointly reaffirmed the ongoing blockade, reiterating that they would not “make any concession” towards Qatar, Al-Arabiya television channel announced. Nevertheless, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has stood strong in his position, stating to the media that “[our] sovereignty is a red line. We don’t accept anybody interfering our sovereignty.” However, although a member of the sanctions-imposing quartet, Egypt has admitted to suffering from the blockade, with the chairman of EgyptAir, Ahmed Adel, announcing “heavy losses.”

 Offering minimal benefits to the quartet, the blockade has only further divided a region already polarized by various disputes, including the Palestine and Israel dispute and the predicament surrounding Iran’s nuclear development. In addition, a 10-day ultimatum accompanied by a list of “13 unlikely demands,” as the Guardian referred to it, delivered to Qatar’s emir following the announcement of the blockade, did not address the original concerns of the quartet. Rather, the unsubstantiated demands included disabling Al Jazeera’s new broadcasting service, expelling Turkish troops from the state, cutting ties with Iran and offering reparation to the sanctioning quartet, raising questions as to why the quartet imposed the blockade.

The blockade on Qatar was implemented on 5 June 2018 by four Arab states commonly referred to as the anti-Qatar quartet: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. The dispute arose following repeated accusations that Doha, Qatar’s capital, had been supporting terrorism and was acting undemocratically by banning political opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Qatar had repeatedly rejected the accusations made against it; Al Jazeera reports that the powerful quartet released a list of demands which Qatar must meet in order for relations to be normalized. Nevertheless, Qatar has managed to survive the embargo amid what has been referred to by Al Jazeera as “the greatest rift in years.” Following a desperate attempt to save its economy by injecting approximately US$40 billion into it, Qatar has severed its dependence upon its regional neighbors to make itself stronger and more resilient.

 In a highly political and divided region, leaders of the world must call for the anti-Qatar quartet to stop isolating Qatar and its regional allies. The inability of the quartet to get Qatar to concede as well as the group’s failure to garner support from other international actors reflects the limitations of its actions. Although implemented within only 24 hours, damages caused by the blockade and relationships which have been cut between the two sides of the dispute will take years to rebuild, leaving the region’s once strong GCC allies torn apart. Ultimately, the anti-Qatar quartet has suffered the most as Doha has become increasingly prominent in the West – as Foreign Policy senior Arab official notes, with Saudi Arabia on the opposing side, “it’s only normal that many will side with Qatar.”

Zoe Knight