Qatar, a tiny nation jutting into the Persian Gulf, woke Monday to find itself less a peninsula and more an island, surrounded by capitals that no longer want anything to do with it.
On Monday morning, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates announced they had cut all ties with Qatar (Kuwait and Oman did not join the announcement). Yemen, the Maldives and one of Libya’s ruling factions followed suit later.
The severance here is all ties, not just diplomatic ones — the cessation of flights from to Doha, the cutting of economic ties, the removal of all Qatari citizens from their territories, and more.
The move will have enormous economic consequences for Qatar.
The UAE’s FlyDubai, for example, announced that all of its flights to and from Qatar would be discontinued starting Tuesday morning.
And what will happen with Qatar Airways, one of the Gulf’s blue chip airlines and the sponsor of FC Barcelona, now that it can no longer use Saudi airspace? Uncertainty is sky high.
The Qatari foreign ministry issued a statement that, as expected, condemns the decision of the countries. But Doha also attempted to calm nervous investors, who sent the Qatari stock exchange into a free-fall in the wake of the announcement.
“Qatar will take all necessary steps to thwart attempts to influence the Qatari society and economy,” it said.
But with the statement unlikely to steady financial jitters, the richest and most enthusiastic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood is learning that there is an economic price to its policies.
Qatar, which for years tried to act as a Western partner for business, has simultaneously invested tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, in terrorist organizations that attack the West and Israel at every opportunity.
This includes funding news channel Al Jazeera, seen as a Muslim brotherhood mouthpiece against other Gulf States, and financing the Nusra Front terror group in Syria.
But it was Doha’s budding relationship with Iran, and new winds blowing from Washington, that apparently made the severing of ties possible.
The warm embrace US President Trump gave Riyadh was all the signal Saudi King Salman needed to know the time had come to settle accounts with the Qatari “fifth column” — a Sunni country that has done quite a bit to attack and undermine its Gulf neighbors, in their account.
Although the Trump government is in no rush to join the Qatari beat-down, the decision of the four countries was likely made with Washington’s full knowledge.
Despite Qatar’s deep pockets, Doha has refused to come to the rescue of Gaza to solve the electricity crisis a second time, even though the amount required would be relatively insignificant for the Qatari treasury.
Doha is also taking steps to improve its image by distancing itself from Hamas. It recently expelled a number of heads of the terror group’s military wing including Saleh al-Arouri and Musa Dudin, who are known for their ties to West Bank terror cells. Al-Arouri is believed to have orchestrated the 2014 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank that precipitated that summer’s Israel-Hamas war.
According to a report, the Qatari’s cited “external pressure,” and one can guess that the demands likely came from both Jerusalem and Washington.
These cosmetic changes proved too little and too late.