Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, the Maldives and the Eastern government of Libya all just severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Saudi Arabia sealed all land, sea and air borders with the country. All countries said they would halt all air and sea traffic to Qatar.
Qatari diplomats have just 48 hours to get out.
The six countries cited Qatar’s ties to terrorism, in particular to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a global Islamist movement originally founded in Egypt that seeks to implement sharia as state law.
UAE state media outlet WAM accused Qatar of “supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organisations.” Bahrain accused Qatar of “shaking the security and stability of Bahrain and meddling in its affairs.”
Qatar has pulled its forces from the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The exact cause of the severing of ties remains unknown. Qatar hit back saying there was “no justification.”
Ties were severed just days after it was reported that Qatar expelled senior Hamas leaders tied to terrorism from its territory. Qatar said the expulsions came as a result of unspecified “outside pressure.” Palestinian officials told Israeli TV the pressure came from the United States and Saudi Arabia and that Qatar gave Hamas a list of names of individuals who had to leave Qatar immediately.
Yet there has long been tension building. Two weeks ago the same four countries blocked access to Qatari websites after controversial statements criticizing Saudi Arabia and supporting Iran were reported to have been made by the Saudi Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The emir reportedly said “There is no reason behind Arabs’ hostility to Iran and our relationship with Israel is good.”
“Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it,” he was reported as saying. “It is a big power in the stabilization of the region.” In a series of tweets which were later deleted, Qatar’s state owned media outlet Al Jazeera also said Qatar would be withdrawing its ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar dismissed the reports as fake news caused by a hacking attack against its media outlets. Nevertheless, the damage was done.
So why is this happening?
Qatar has funded jihadi groups in Syria that wage war against the Assad regime, including Ahrar al-Sham which was perfectly happy to fight alongside then al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra. In Libya, Qatar has funded the Islamist “Libya Dawn” coalition. Arms shipments to Islamist militias there were tracked by British intelligence.
In 2014, anger over these funding ties led Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE to pull their ambassadors from Qatar.
Over the past decades, Qatar has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into funding Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate based in Gaza.In March, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal unveiled the new Hamas Charter in the Sheraton Hotel in Doha. As recently as February they sent $100 million to Gaza, as part of a $1-billion package they promised after Operation Protective Edge.
Al Jazeera also provided much in the way of media support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the 2011 revolution, during the tenure of Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt Mohammed Morsi and in the aftermath of his departure. Immediately following the coup, 22 journalists working for Al Jazeera in Egypt resigned after being told by their Qatari bosses to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy, former head of the Egypt News Center accused the outlet of being a “propaganda channel” for the Brotherhood.
Egypt later shut down Al Jazeera offices and arrested several of its journalists accusing them of supporting the Brotherhood. You can read Clarion Project’s interview with the former bureau chief of Al Jazeera Egypt, Mohammed Fahmy, here.
The Muslim Brotherhood is correctly regarded, along with Pakistan’s Jamaat e-Islami as the grandfather of modern Islamism. The mentor of Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, was a Muslim Brotherhood member and Milestones, written by Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb has become a foundational textbook for the jihadi movement.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE see the Brotherhood as a threat to their rule. All have banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The UAE not only banned the Muslim Brotherhood, but also 80 of their international affiliates including the American Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Muslim American Society (MAS).
The White House is reportedly considering banning the Muslim Brotherhood. There are those in policy circles, such as the Brookings Institute, which oppose a ban. It is worth noting that in 2013 Brookings took a $14.8 million gift from none other than Qatar, payable over four years, which among other things “helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world,” according to The New York Times.