In new Gulf war, wealthy Qatar forced to pay for its policies
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Analysis

In new Gulf war, wealthy Qatar forced to pay for its policies

Sunni states hit 'fifth column' Doha, severing diplomatic and economic ties, put high price tag on its support for the Muslim brotherhood and budding relationship with Iran

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A man stands outside the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after the airline had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar, June 5, 2017. (AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
A man stands outside the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after the airline had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar, June 5, 2017. (AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

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.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, second from right, at the inauguration ceremony of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and Melania Trump with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, second from right, at the inauguration ceremony of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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.

Qatar Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani waits for the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of their meeting, at Diwan Palace in Doha, Qatar on August 3, 2015. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)
Qatar Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani waits for the arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of their meeting, at Diwan Palace in Doha, Qatar on August 3, 2015. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

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.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri, the head of Hamas operations in the West Bank. (YouTube screenshot)
Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri, the head of Hamas operations in the West Bank. (YouTube screenshot)

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.

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