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Has the cold war among Gulf countries just started?

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Zulfiqar Sheth
Zulfiqar Sheth is a senior research fellow at the Department of Economics, Aligarh Muslim University.

On the wake of Qatar crisis the cold war among the gulf countries almost started and there is very tense situation in the region. Saudi Arabia, UAE , Bahrain and Egypt yesterday announced to cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar and seized borders alleging Qatar playing role in terror funding and promoting Iran’s agenda. This left the whole region in chaos.

This is one of the serious developments within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the block includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. The GCC is formed to encourage cooperation on economy, defense, security and environment. But these ties are now under threat. The Saudi Arabia and UAE asked Qataris to leave their nations within 14 days and issued travel advisory to their citizens not to travel Qatar. On the other hand Egypt also withdrawn its ambassador and shut down all diplomatic ties with the immediate effect. Egypt also blocked it’s water and air space for Qatar saying “With its national security interest”.

Meanwhile Qatar has expressed surprise and shock over this dramatic escalation. The statement issued by the  Qatari foreign ministry reads, “Its deep regret and surprise at the decisions by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain to close their borders and airspace, and sever diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar, bearing in mind that these measures are unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.” The statement goes on to explain that “The State of Qatar has been subjected to a campaign of lies that have reached the point of complete fabrication. It reveals a hidden plan to undermine the State of Qatar.”

The effect of increased tension in the region marked by rise in oil prices overnight. Oil prices will continue to go up if the situation is not sorted. The diplomatic cut will also potentially complicate fight against ISIS as Qatar has largest US military airbase with 11,000 military personnel.  Major international airlines like Etihad , Emirates, Qatar airways are cancelling flights and with blocked borders grocery stores are running out of basic supplies.

Within less than 24 hours Libya, Yemen and Maldives also joins Saudi led diplomatic cut with Qatar. On the other hand, Turkey is saddened with the unprecedented development in the region. “We are saddened by the development of the situation. Of course there may be problems and disagreements between countries, but dialogue must continue under any conditions”, Turkish foreign minster said in a statement. Kingdom of Kuwait, a member of GCC called for mediation and emir of Kuwait is set to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia today. Hope he archives some breakthrough and unite GCC countries otherwise the region will boil again like it did in 1967.

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Zulfiqar Sheth
Zulfiqar Sheth is a senior research fellow at the Department of Economics, Aligarh Muslim University.

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