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Explained: Why Qatar has earned the ire of Gulf Arab nations

Qatar has faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group.

world Updated: Jun 05, 2017 17:49 IST
Agencies
Qatar has faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists.
Qatar has faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists.(Reuters File Photo)

Four Arab nations , Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar Monday morning, further deepening a rift among Gulf Arab nations over Doha’s alleged support for Islamist groups and its relations with Iran. A look at the history of the conflict:

THE TRIGGER

Qatar alleged in late May that hackers took over the site of its state-run news agency and published what it called fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel. Its Gulf Arab neighbours responded with anger, blocking Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

On May 27, Qatar’s ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, called Iranian President Hasan Rouhani to congratulate him on his re-election.

The call was a clear, public rebuttal of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to force Qatar to fall in line against the Shiite-ruled nation, which the Sunni kingdom sees as its No. 1 enemy and a threat to regional stability. Qatar shares a massive offshore gas field with the Islamic Republic.

THE HISTORY

Qatar long has faced criticism from its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists. The chief worry among them is the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist political group outlawed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE as it challenges the nations’ hereditary rule.

Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia fell out with Qatar over its backing of then-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member. In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the rift.

Eight months later, they returned their ambassadors as Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country and quieted others. However, the 2014 crisis did not see a land and sea blockade as threatened now.

FINANCIAL PATRON OF HAMAS

In the time since, Qatar repeatedly and strongly denied it funds extremist groups. However, it remains a key financial patron of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has been the home of exiled Hamas official Khaled Mashaal since 2012. Western officials also have accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

Qatar also maintains ties with Iran as it shares a massive offshore gas field with the Islamic Republic.

THE FALLOUT

The decision can have repercussions around the Middle East where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops would be pulled out from the ongoing war in Yemen.

WHAT NATIONS SAID

Saudi Arabia said it took the decision due to Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region” including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and groups supported by Iran in the kingdom’s restive eastern province of Qatif.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry accused Qatar of taking an “antagonist approach” toward Egypt and said “all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed.”

Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.