The diplomatic confrontation between the Gulf States and Qatar is becoming increasingly internationalized. The state and its 2,6 million inhabitants are dependent for food and water on imports. On Wednesday, Tehran and Ankara pledged an airlift that will allow Qatar to replenish its supplies.
Gulf States vs. Iran and Turkey
On Monday, five Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly disrupted their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Yemen have since been joined by Jordan, Libya, the Maldives, and Mauritania. Iraq has proclaimed neutrality.
Since Tuesday, Saudi Arabia has escalated the diplomatic confrontation with economic sanctions, disrupting air travel and closing its land borders.
On the very day Iran suffered its first IS attack, foreign minister Javad Zarif met with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to coordinate their response to the crisis. On Wednesday, Turkey and Iran announced they are planning an airlift campaign to supply Qatar with food and water. Also, Ankara will be sending more troops, in addition to a force of 150 soldiers on the ground since 2014.
Qatar and Turkey have close economic ties. In construction alone, Turkish companies have a portfolio of $14bn in Qatar. Moreover, the two countries have a similar foreign policy both as regards to their political support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Syria. Saudi Arabia and Egypt regard the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Between escalation and accommodation
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are demanding from Qatar to expel members of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and terror groups “with al-Qaida DNA.” Meanwhile, UAE authorities have warned their citizens that anyone expressing public sympathy for Qatar could face 15 years in prison, the BBC reports.
Qatar is categorically denying it is sponsoring radical Islamists.
Kuwait is the only power in the Gulf region actively mediating in the Qatar crisis. Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and his Foreign Minister went to Dubai on Wednesday for a series of exploratory meetings, Kuwait News Agency reports.
It is unclear whether Kuwait’s diplomatic efforts are yielding results, but it is clear that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to contain the challenge at hand. Speaking in a joint press Conference with the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, on Wednesday, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, called Qatar a “brother state” and provided assurances that the crisis could be addressed within the region without outside interference.