Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

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The decision this week by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to cut diplomatic ties and transport connections with their GCC ally Qatar is a massive shock to the region.

Qatar is host to the largest US air base in the Middle East at Al Udeid, a staging ground for USA -led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq. But US officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, say the diplomatic rift will not disrupt that campaign.

In a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said Doha will refrain from escalating the dispute, which prompted the cutoff of diplomatic relations, trade, and air traffic between the two sides on June 5. "And I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations. have made to this fight".

The five key countries involved in the dispute are US allies, and Qatar has committed $35 billion to invest in American assets. "That would be very destabilizing in a region that's already very unstable".

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said Qatari students in Egypt would not be harmed or affected by the break in relations, though it was too soon to talk about the fate of Qatari investments in Egypt, according to the Egyptian state news agency. "But in the long run, it could create openings for Iran".

Doha subsequently cultivated not only Islamists like America's foes Iran, Hamas and the Taliban in pursuit of leverage, but also Washington itself, hosting the largest USA air base in the Middle East.

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But other analysts said these fears were exaggerated.

He pointed to Gulf Arabs and Israelis, who have no formal relations, or relationships that are riven with tension, like the strained ties between Turkey and both the Arabs and Israel.

About 80 percent of Qatar's food requirements are sourced via bigger Gulf Arab neighbours.

While President Trump's role in this unfolding Gulf drama may not seem immediately obvious, his vision of a Saudi-led Arab world, united against Iran, is indeed responsible for the diplomatic hullabaloo. "There's got to be a place for us to meet the Taliban".

"The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims", Qatar said.

But it does leave the United States potentially caught in the middle.

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Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large United States military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants.

However, Trump and his officials have also praised Qatar.

While restrictions have been imposed on state-owned Qatar Airways, there are no curbs imposed by the countries on carriers from India and other nations.

But that plea ignores history. Qatar also enjoys a close economic relationship with Iran, sharing control over a large natural gas field vital to Qatar's economy.

The deterioration in ties between Qatar and Egypt contrasts with 2013 when the producer gifted five LNG cargoes to Egypt - when Mohamed Mursi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, served as president.

They have jobs and a stable life here with their families.

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Efforts are being undermined because loans are rising faster than in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.as Qatar continues spending to finance building projects for the soccer World Cup.

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