Background and Scope of the Project

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. The quartet also imposed a land, maritime, and airspace blockade on Qatar, and restrictions on travels of their nationals to Qatar and Qatari nationals to their countries. The Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros, Jordan, the Tobruk-based Libyan government, and the Hadi-led Yemeni government soon joined the quartet, and severed their ties with Qatar as well. The aforementioned countries claimed that the severing of ties is a reaction to Qatar’s unceasing destabilizing endeavors in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, and failure to abide by international commitments and agreements. Such allegations were contested by Qatar claiming that they are “absolute fabrications”. 

The current round of troubles between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar on the other, is not the first of its kind. In fact, this is just the latest, albeit perhaps most dramatic, episode in a long contentious series of frictions. As far as Qatar and the UAE are concerned, the two countries have had a long history of rivalry, especially between the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Doha, dating back to the 1800s. This rivalry was most evident during the negotiations for establishing the Federation of Emirates between 1968 and 1970. With regards to Bahrain and Qatar, the Al Thanis of Qatar and Al Khalifas of Bahrain have also had their share of rivalries and frictions. Qatar and Bahrain fought against each other in 1867, and had troubled relation from 1937 to 2001 due to territorial disputes over the Hawar Islands and the town of Zubarah. 

Insofar as Saudi-Qatari relations are concerned, in 1992 Qatar and Saudi Arabia engaged in a border clash that resulted in three deaths. Moreover, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt backed a counter-coup attempt against Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani on February 14, 1996, hoping to restore Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani to power. In 2002, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Doha in protest against controversial comments by Saudi dissidents against the Al Sauds that were broadcasted on the Al Jazeera satellite channel. Later in March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha amid accusations of Qatar’s failure to abide by Al Riyadh Agreement signed by the Gulf Cooperation Council member states in January, 2014.

As this brief summary of frictions indicates, the current GCC crisis has historical roots. However, given prevailing regional and international circumstances, the current, on-going GCC crisis has been far more consequential for all parties concerned than previous instances. These consequences are evident in diplomatic relations, local economies and trade relations, supply chains, social and tribal relations, and nationalism.

To better understand the causes and consequences of the dynamics at work, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) launched a multi-year research initiative that examines the social, political, and economic consequences of the ongoing GCC crisis. Among the topics that deserve in-depth academic study are: 

  • The GCC Crisis in Context
  • A Micro State’s Crisis Diplomacy: Qatar’s Story
  • An Unhappy Neighbor: The View from the UAE
  • Saudi Grievances against Qatar
  • Bahrain and Qatar’s Strained Relationship
  • Egypt and the GCC Crisis
  • The Muslim Brotherhood Factor in the GCC Crisis
  • The Regional Implications of the GCC Crisis
  • The GCC Crisis: The View from Kuwait
  • Caught in the Crossfire: Oman and the GCC Crisis
  • Iran and the Gulf Crisis
  • Turkey and the Gulf Crisis
  • The European Union and the GCC Crisis
  • The Economic Consequences of the GCC Crisis
  • Economic Readjustment in Qatar after the Blockade
  • The Impact of the GCC Crisis on the Qatari Stock Market
  • The Blockade of Qatar and Maritime Law
  • Public Opinion in Qatar after the Blockade
  • Nationalism and National Identity in Qatar during the Crisis
  • Social Solidarity and the Politics of Loyalty in Qatar after 2017
  • Generational Change in the Monarchies and the Gulf Crisis
  • Family and Kinship in Qatar after the Blockade

Article by Islam Hassan, Research Analyst at CIRS