Joined by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Yemen, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting Iran-backed terrorism and put dozens of Qatar-linked figures and charities on terrorism blacklists, as well as pulling all Qatari troops from an Arab coalition fighting in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia also closed its land border with Qatar, with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stating that the country needs to cut ties with Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas in Gaza, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to end the dispute.
Qatar openly supports Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel, yet has repeatedly rejected claims it is a leading supporter of Islamist extremism. Iran provides weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).
It is well documented that Iran also provides financial assistance, weapons, ammunition and military training to the Islamist Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.
Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, its support for acts of terror and financing for armed groups associated with Iran to carry out subversive attacks and spread chaos” for its decision to cut ties last week.
The UAE accused Qatar of “destabilising security of the region”, while Egypt said Doha was supporting “terrorism”. Egypt’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement that its ports and airports were closed to Qatari ships and planes.
The Jordanian government subsequently announced it was reducing diplomatic ties with Qatar and cancelled the local registration for Al Jazeera TV. The Doha-based news network has also been blocked by several other Arab countries, while Israel is considering shutting down Al Jazeera’s bureau in the country.
The dispute between Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began last month, after Qatar claimed a hacker published a false story quoting a senior official touting relations with Israel and Iran on its state-run news agency website.
After visiting Riyadh last month, where he called on Arab leaders to fight extremism and isolate Iran, US President Trump tweeted: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar”.
He added: “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism”.
However, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that US Defence Minister Jim Mattis has completed a $12 billion agreement with his Qatari counterpart, whereby Qatar will buy as many as 36 F-15 jets from the US.
In a statement, the Pentagon said: “The $12-billion sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar”.
Iran’s increasing hegemonic regional ambitions, as well as the growing weapons supply of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, and the threat of Daesh, have led to the alignment of interests between Israel and its Gulf neighbours, opening unprecedented lines of communication.
In February 2017, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the GCC and Arab countries “hold the key” to the peace process, following reports that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took part in a secret US-organised summit in February 2016 with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
There have also been reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog secretly met the Egyptian President in April 2016, in an attempt to negotiate a cross-party peace agreement.