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Those visiting Doha are often told by locals that the city is the epicentre for political deal-makings in the Middle East. If you just want to do business, go to Dubai, the Qatari political elites are fond of saying.
But marketing yourself as a peddler of intrigue in a region full of tension and conflict was never going to be cost-free, as Qatar discovered on June 5. The push back came from fellow Arab states: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Other allied countries to Saudi Arabia have since followed suit.
They broke off diplomatic relations, put a total air, land and sea blockade on the tiny Qatari peninsula, expelled Qatari diplomats and asked Qatari citizens to leave. The Qataris, by far the wealthiest people in the world as measured income per capita, were rushing to the supermarkets to stock up on basic food and water as the Saudis closed the country’s only land-border.
But Qatar has been here before. Back in 2014, almost the same identical countries broke off relations for the same reasons: that Qatar is a Trojan horse inside the Sunni Arab, oil-rich sheikhdoms that make up the Gulf Corporation Council, an organization that was touted as the region’s European Union. This time around, as was the case back in 2014, the Saudis and the Emiratis – the two states in the GCC with the greatest foreign policy and military clout – have again given Doha an ultimatum.
The Qataris have been asked to cut Iran loose; to expel members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamist movement that is essentially anti-monarchical and hence antithetical to the other Gulf monarchies; and to otherwise stay within the GCC tent and stop freelancing.