Monday, June 5, 2017

Saudi-Led Alliance Moves To Blockade Qatar Over Iran Tensions

Saudi, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain sever ties with Qatar; Countries suspend air, sea travel; Saudis shut land border.


By Alaa Shahine and Zaid Sabah
Bloomberg
June 5, 2017

Four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and moved to close off access to the Gulf country, escalating a crisis that started over its relationship with Iran and its support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt said in statements they will suspend air and sea travel to and from Qatar. Saudi Arabia will shut land crossings with its neighbor, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, potentially depriving the emirate of imports.

The move by the energy-rich Gulf Arab countries comes after U.S. President Donald Trump recently visited Saudi Arabia. The kingdom and the U.A.E. want to stamp out potential threats to a united front against Iranian influence in the Middle East. The two countries are prodding Qatar to end its support for Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

“The Saudi-U.A.E. campaign kicked into high gear on Monday with the kingdom, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt breaking off diplomatic relations with Qatar, ” said James M. Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow in international studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “It’s reminiscent of a similar failed effort by Gulf states in 2014, but this time round sets the bar far higher.”



Brent crude rose as much as 1.6 percent to $50.74 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, before paring gains to 1.1 percent by 11:58 a.m. Singapore time. Heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and Iran typically draw market attention to the Strait of Hormuz, through which the U.S. Department of Energy estimates about 30 percent of seaborne oil trade passes.

After Trump’s visit to Riyadh, the state-run Qatar News Agency carried comments by Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticizing mounting anti-Iran sentiment, with the U.S. president and King Salman singling out Iran as the world’s main sponsor of terrorism. Qatari officials quickly deleted the comments, blamed them on hackers and appealed for calm. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. accused Qatar of trying to undermine efforts to isolate the Islamic republic.

Saudi Arabia cited Qatar’s support of “terrorist groups aiming to destabilize the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and al-Qaeda. It accused Qatar of supporting “Iranian-backed terrorist groups” operating in the kingdom’s eastern province as well as Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the U.A.E., gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave.


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