Qatar crisis to wreak havoc on food security, aviation

Three GCC states – the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – as well as Egypt and Yemen, have cut off all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, a move that could have severe effects in the coming days.

Besides tarnishing Qatar’s international image, this could have an adverse impact on various sectors such as food security and aviation – not just of Qatar but of neighboring nations as well.

The GCC states, along with Yemen and Egypt – the most populous country in the Arab world – have decided to take this harsh move against Qatar over accusations that Doha’s regional policies are fanning the Muslim Brotherhood (the world’s oldest Islamist movement), threatening regional stability and supporting terrorism and extremism in the region.

Notably, these coordinated curbs have come in the wake of recent accusations that Doha is backing the vested agenda of regional archrival Iran and is subtly fueling instability in the region.

Far-reaching repercussions

The closure of Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia threatens food supplies to Qatar, which is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Experts believe the exact repercussion will be apparent in the couple of weeks,

Besides, state-owned airline Qatar Airways, one of the fastest-growing carriers, is now on the risk of facing major interruptions in its network. There are threats that Qatar Airways flights will not be able to access the airspace of UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, affecting its long-haul flights.

Is everyone succumbing to pressure from Pres. Trump?

This move has come on the close heels of US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, opening up the scope for much contemplation and analysis.

The US administration, under Trump, has warned that it intends to re-evaluate the milestone pact lifting most of the sanctions imposed against Iran in lieu of Iranian authorities restricting their nuclear and missile programs. However, the US my face some trouble in this regard.

“The Americans cannot unilaterally back out of the deal as it [was signed by] the P5+1 [five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany], so they are using the GCC and Egypt to put pressure on any countries supporting Iran,” Peter Sluglett, visiting research professor at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, was quoted by CNBC.

Severing diplomatic ties

The UAE has given Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. According to the state news agency WAM, Abu Dhabi has accused Qatar of supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organizations. The UAE state airline Etihad Airways said it would suspend all flights to Doha from Tuesday.

TRENDS’ sister title AMEinfo has received the following message from an Emirates airline spokesperson: “As instructed by the UAE government, Emirates will suspend its flights to and from Doha, starting from the morning of 6 June 2017, until further notice. Emirates’ flights to and from Doha today (5 June), will operate as normal. Travelers bound for Doha, who are boarding their flight from airports around the Emirates network today (5 June), will be advised to make alternative arrangements. All customers booked on Emirates’ flights to and from Doha will be provided with alternative options, including full refunds on unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternate Emirates destinations.”

Besides, Air Arabia said on Monday that it had suspended flights between Sharjah and Doha effective Tuesday until further notice.

Sharp criticism

Bahrain’s state news agency accused Qatar of ‘shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs’.

Meanwhile, the KSA-led Arab coalition forces fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen also expelled Qatar from their alliance. KSA has also cut all air, sea and road links with Qatar.

Not unexpected

Although this massive severing of ties with Qatar was abrupt, it was not unexpected, as tensions have been building up in the region in the recent past.

Just a few weeks ago, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia had blocked Qatari news sites after contentious comments allegedly given by Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, condemning Saudi Arabia, appeared on Qatar media.

However, the Doha government maintained the comments were bogus and were the result of a hacking cyber attack.

‘Unjustified’

Qatar-based al Jazeera TV quoted the country’s foreign ministry as saying: “The measures are unjustified and are based on allegations that have no basis in fact.”

In the meantime, a senior Iranian official stated that this move to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar would not help in ending the crisis in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maintained he does not expect any big effect of this decision on the fight against terrorism.

“I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified – the unified – fight against terrorism in the region or globally,” Tillerson told reporters in Sydney.