The Gulf is once again in a crisis following Qatar’s alleged ties with Hamas and statements by Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in support of Iran.
These alleged relations with the outfit has led Saudi Arabia and its key allies Egypt, UAE and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar thereby leaving the Middle East in a fragmented condition once again. According to the four Arab nations they cut ties with Qatar as they believe that the emirate supports terrorism and poses a threat to their national security.
Reports in the local media indicate that the government in the three emirates have given Qataris living in their territories 14 days to leave the country. Egypt, so far, has not made it clear whether it will also ask Qatari citizens to leave. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain have cut diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar and will close all ground, sea and air ports to forbid transit, state news agencies have said. Egypt has also said it was severing its ties with the Gulf state and would close its airspace and seaports for all Qatari transportation.
According to reports, Qatari leaders have been maintaining strong ties with Hamas, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also reports that hours before the three emirates and Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar, the four Arab countries were trying to pressure Qatar into ejecting Hamas — the largest of several Palestinian militant Islamist groups. According to the Jerusalem Post, Khaled Mashaal, the former head of Hamas, has resided in Qatar since 2012.
Another Jerusalem Post report said that on Saturday Qatar had moved to expel members of Hamas to leave the country due to “external pressure”.
Relations between Hamas and Iran have been improving since 2011 and there have been reports in the Israeli media that Iran may have started funding Hamas again. Given that Iran has long been Saudi Arabia’s bête noire, supporting Hamas could not have earned Qatar any brownie points with the Kingdom.
In an opinion piece published today, Al Arabiya columnist Hussein Shobokshi writes: “It (Qatar) publicly supported the ‘opponents’ of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and did the same with Morocco, Jordan and the UAE. In addition, it encouraged the Houthis to strengthen their ties with Iran and still continues to do so. It also opened the Qatari market for Iranian investments.”
The emir’s alleged statements on Hamas and Hezbollah
In a report published on June 1, The Washington Post said that “incendiary comments” allegedly made by Qatar’s emir Tamim on May 23 had set off a heated exchange between the Gulf states.
According to Gulf News, the emir called Hezbollah a legitimate resistance movement and called Iran a “big power in the stabilisation of the region” and said that there was “no wisdom in harbouring hostility toward Iran”.
According to the report, the UAE and Saudi Arabia blocked Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera in response to the emir’s statements.
These comments were attributed to the emir in a report published by the Qatar News Agency (QNA). However, on May 24, according to The Washington Post, Qatar’s government communications office claimed that QNA had been hacked.
The denials from Qatar, however, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. According to The Washington Post, since the emir’s alleged speech, Gulf news agencies have extensively written on the matter and have “taken the emir’s speech as fact”.