I feel like I was immersed in Crimea (because of this) and the Iran nuclear talks (that’s forthcoming, hopefully) all last week, but there was a fairly major diplomatic spat that also took place involving my old home away from home, Qatar. My piece on this story was picked up by the Inter Press Service, so please go read it there. A longer version of the same story should be available at Lobe Log tomorrow morning, so I’ll drop in a link to that one when it’s up (UPDATE: here it is). The version that will be posted at Lobe Log starts like this:
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, citing Qatar’s support for organizations and individuals that threaten “the security and stability of the Gulf states”:
The statement said they had withdrawn their envoys “to protect their security” because Qatar failed to fulfill vows “to refrain from supporting organizations or individuals who threaten the security and stability of the gulf states, through direct security work or through political influence,” and also “to refrain from supporting hostile media.”
This came right on the heels of a U.A.E. court sentencing Qatari doctor Mahmoud al-Jaidah to seven years in prison on Monday, for the crime of aiding a banned opposition group called al-Islah, which the U.A.E. government alleges has operational ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Islah insists that any connection it has with the Brotherhood is purely ideological). As Emile Nakhleh writes, he decision by the three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members to recall their ambassadors from a fourth member state illustrates quite clearly that the first “C” in “GCC”–“cooperation”–means virtually nothing at this point, if it ever did mean anything. This was a coordinated move, led by the Saudis, to punish Qatar for supporting Muslim Brotherhood interests around the Middle East (and also for assuming a more prominent role in pan-Arab politics), but beyond that it reflects the Saudis’ deep and ongoing concern about an Iranian resurgence in the Gulf. From the Saudi perspective the Qataris have been punching above their proper weight, and making nice with the wrong people.