Initial supply disruptions were mitigated by additional imports from Iran and Turkey, and Qatar did not agree to any of the Saudi-led coalition's demands. The demands included reducing diplomatic relations with Iran, stopping military coordination with Turkey, and closing Al-Jazeera.
On 27 July 2017, Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were showing "stubbornness" to Qatar and had not taken any steps to solve the crisis. Al Thani added that the Security Council, the General Assembly and "all the United Nations mechanisms" could play a role in resolving the situation. On 24 August 2017, Qatar announced that they would restore full diplomatic relations with Iran.
Since he took power in 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani believed Qatar could find security only by transforming itself from a Saudi appendage to a rival of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Doha from 2002 to 2008 to try to pressure Qatar to curb its individualistic tendencies. This approach broadly failed. The Arab Spring left a power vacuum which both Saudi Arabia and Qatar sought to fill, with Qatar being supportive of the revolutionary wave and Saudi Arabia opposing it; since both states are allies of the United States, they avoid direct conflict with one another. Qatar has had differences with other Arab governments on a number of issues: it broadcasts Al Jazeera; it is accused of maintaining good relations with Iran; and it has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in the past. Qatar has been accused of sponsoring terrorism. Some countries have faulted Qatar for funding rebel groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, although the Saudis have done the same. Qatar has allowed the Afghan Taliban to set up a political office inside the country. Qatar is a close ally of the United States, hosting the largest American base in the Middle East, Al Udeid Air Base.
The exact reasons for the diplomatic break-offs are unclear, but contemporary news coverage primarily attributes this to several events in April and May 2017.
April 2017 hostage negotiations
Flag of Tahrir al-Sham, a Sunni militant group. Qatar is accused of paying the group $140 million in a deal that saw the release of hostages and allowing of humanitarian aid to Shi'ite and Sunni villages in Syria.
In April 2017, Qatar was involved in a deal with both Sunni and Shi'ite militants in Iraq and Syria. The deal had two goals. The immediate goal was to secure the return of 26 Qatari hostages (including Qatari royals) who had been kidnapped by Shi'ite militants while falcon hunting in Southern Iraq and kept in captivity for more than 16 months. The second goal was to get both Sunni and Shi'ite militants in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to pass through and allow the safe evacuation of civilians. According to the New York Times, this deal allowed the evacuation of at least 2,000 civilians from the Syrian village of Madaya alone. What outraged Saudi Arabia and the UAE is the amount of money Qatar had to pay to secure the deal. According to the Financial Times Qatar paid $700 million to Iranian-backed Shi'a militias in Iraq, $120–140 million to Tahrir al-Sham, and $80 million to Ahrar al-Sham.
As part of the Riyadh Summit in late May 2017, many world leaders, including US President Donald Trump visited the region. Trump gave strong support for Saudi Arabia's efforts in fighting against states and groups allied with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to an arms deal between the countries. The Business Insider reported that "Elliott Broidy a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump; and George Nader, Broidy's business partner ... pushed for anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of government, and expected large consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE." Trump's support may have induced other Sunni states to fall in line with Saudi Arabia to take a stance against Qatar. Trump's public support for Saudi Arabia emboldened the kingdom and sent a chill through other Gulf states, including Oman and Kuwait, that fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has. The Saudi-led move was at once an opportunity for the GCC partners and Egypt to punish their adversaries in Doha, please their allies in Washington, and remove attention from their own shortcomings and challenges.
Hacking of Qatari websites
According to Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the American FBI, the Qatar News Agency website and other government media platforms were hacked in May 2017, where hackers posted fake remarks on the official Qatar News Agency attributed to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Israel. The emir was quoted as saying: "Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it. It is a big power in the stabilization of the region." Qatar reported that the statements were false and did not know their origin. Despite this, the remarks were widely publicized in the various Arab news media, including UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Saudi-owned Al Arabiya. On 3 June 2017, the Twitter account of Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was hacked.
Initially alleged intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicated that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qataris. However, a US official briefed on the inquiry told the New York Times that it "was unclear whether the hackers were state-sponsored" and The Guardian diplomatic or Patrick Wintour reported that "it is believed that the Russian government was not involved in the hacks; instead, freelance hackers were paid to undertake the work on behalf of some other state or individual." A US diplomat said that Russia and its ally Iran stood to benefit from sowing discord among US allies in the region, "particularly if they made it more difficult for the United States to use Qatar as a major base." The FBI sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the hacking incident. Later, the New York Times reported that the hacking incidents may be part of a long-running cyberwar between Qatar and other Gulf countries that was only revealed to the public during the recent incidents, and they noted how Saudi and UAE media picked up the statement made by the hacked media in less than 20 minutes and began interviewing many well-prepared commentators against Qatar.
US intelligence agencies believe that the hacking was done by the United Arab Emirates, according to a Washington Post article published on 16 July. The intelligence officials stated that the hacking was discussed among Emirati officials on 23 May, one day before the operation took place. The UAE denied any involvement in the hacking. It was announced on 26 August 2017, that five individuals allegedly involved in the hacking were arrested in Turkey.
In May 2017, the email account of the UAE's ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, was hacked. The emails were reported as "embarrassing" by Al Jazeera, because they showed links between the UAE and the USneoconFoundation for Defense of Democracies. Arab countries saw the media coverage of the alleged email hack as a provocation by Qatar, regardless of the lack of affiliation of Qatar to the hack, and deepened the rift between the two sides. On 9 June, Al Jazeera's media network was the victim of a cyber attack across all its platforms. Yousef al-Otaiba has been reportedly linked to buy influence for UAE-led campaigns in the White House.
Severance of diplomatic and economic ties
Between 5 and 6 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives, and Bahrain all separately announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar; among these Bahrain was the first to announce the severing of ties at 02:50 GMT in the early morning of 5 June.
Maps showing the route taken by Qatar Airways flights leaving Doha before and after the embargo was imposed. Data taken from FlightRadar24.
A variety of diplomatic actions were taken. Saudi Arabia and the UAE notified ports and shipping agents not to receive Qatari vessels or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals. Saudi Arabia closed the border with Qatar. Saudi Arabia restricted its airspace to Qatar Airways. Instead, Qatar was forced to reroute flights to Africa and Europe through Iranian airspace. Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals.
Qatar verbally criticized the ban. The Foreign Ministry of Qatar criticized the ban, arguing that it undermined Qatar's sovereignty. The foreign minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said that Saudi statements regarding Qatar were contradictory: on the one hand, Saudi Arabia claimed Qatar was supporting Iran, on the other hand, it claimed Qatar was funding Sunni extremists fighting against Iran.
All GCC countries involved in the announcement ordered their citizens out of Qatar. Three Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain) gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. The foreign ministries of Bahrain and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave their countries. Qatar was expelled from the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and Yemen's government itself has cut ties. Kuwait and Oman remained neutral.
Kuwaiti mediators in Riyadh were presented with a list of Saudi demands of Qatar. These included cutting off all links with Iran and expelling resident members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the controversial Al-Jazeera network, to stop "interfering" in foreign countries' affairs and to cease any funding or support for terrorist organisations.
As of 21 February 2018, eight sovereign governments have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar World Cup supreme committee, has stated that the projects are going as scheduled for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar's only land border and air and sea routes have been cut off by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As the blockade came into play, World Cup organizers were asked to investigate a "Plan B", FIFA however has confidence in not exploring a "Plan B" for an alternate 2022 host. According to Thawadi, all these logistical obstacles are being overcome and building progress is continuing with only minimal cost increases, in preparation for the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Israel's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, described the situation as an "opportunity" for Israel, stating, "Some [Arab countries'] interests overlap with Israeli interests, including the issue with al-Jazeera." He went on to describe al-Jazeera as an "incitement machine" and "pure propaganda". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded al-Jazeera shut down its offices in Israel.
Pakistan stated that it had no plans to cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Members of the Parliament passed a resolution in National Assembly of Pakistan urging all countries to "show restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue". Federal minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources said that "Pakistan will continue to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar." A six-member Qatari delegation headed by a special envoy of the Qatari Emir visited Pakistan and asked Pakistan to play a positive role in resolving the diplomatic crisis. Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif said "Pakistan would do "all it can" to help resolve the crisis and called on the Muslim world to play a role in ending hostilities."TRT in a report said that Pakistan would deploy 20,000 troops in Qatar but the Pakistani foreign ministry denied the report.
The Philippines suspended the deployment of migrant workers to Qatar on 6 June 2017. However,the next day, they allowed the deployment of returning workers and those with an Overseas Employment Certificate, but still maintained the suspension of the deployment of new workers. The suspension was later fully lifted on 15 June.
United States President Donald Trump claimed cr for engineering the diplomatic crisis in a series of tweets. On 6 June, Trump began by tweeting: "During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!" An hour and a half later, he remarked on Twitter that it was "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 [sic] was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" This was in contrast to attempts by the Pentagon and the Department of State to remain neutral. The Pentagon praised Qatar for hosting the Al Udeid Air Base and for its "enduring commitment to regional security." US Ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, sent a similar message. Earlier, the US Secretary of State had taken a neutral stance and called for dialogue. On 8 June, President Donald Trump, during a phone call with the Emir of QatarTamim bin Hamad Al Thani, offered to act as a mediator in the conflict with a White House meeting between the parties if necessary. The offer was declined, and a Qatari official stated, "The emir has no plans to leave Qatar while the country is under a blockade." On 9 June, Trump once again put the blame on Qatar, calling the blockade "hard but necessary" while claiming that Qatar had been funding terrorism at a "very high level" and described the country as having an "extremist ideology in terms of funding". This statement was in conflict with Secretary of State Tillerson's comments on the same day, which called on Gulf states to ease the blockade. In 13 June 2017 after meeting with Tillerson in Washington, Saudi Foreign MinisterAdel al-Jubeir stated that there was "no blockade" and "what we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right" and that the King Salman Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Relief would send food or medical aid to Qatar if needed. On 21 June 2017, Trump told a crowd in Iowa that "We cannot let these incredibly rich nations fund radical Islamic terror or terrorism of any kind," noting that after his visit to Riyadh in May 2017 to meet with Saudi King Salman and urge an end to terror funding, "He has taken it to heart. And now they're fighting with other countries that have been funding terrorism. And I think we had a huge impact."
On 8 June 2017, Egypt's deputy UN Ambassador Ihab Moustafa called for the United Nations Security Council to launch an investigation into accusations that Qatar "paid up to $1 billion to a terrorist group active in Iraq" to free 26 Qatari hostages, including members of its royal family, which payment would violate UN resolutions. The Qataris were kidnapped on 16 December 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq. The hostages were released eighteen months later in April 2017. Qatari diplomats responded to the Egyptian calls for an investigation by reaffirming their commitment to the UN resolutions towards eliminating the financing of terrorism.
In June 2017, the government of Qatar hired American attorney and politician John Ashcroft to lobby on its behalf and help the state deny international allegations of supporting terror.
Nearly 80 percent of Qatar's food requirements come from Gulf Arab neighbors, with only 1 percent being produced domestically and even imports from outside the Gulf states usually crossing the now closed land border with Saudi Arabia. Immediately after the cutting of relations, local reports indicated residents swarmed grocery stores in hopes of stockpiling food. Many food delivery trucks were idled along the Saudi-Qatari border. On 8 June 2017, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, "We're not worried about a food shortage, we're fine. We can live forever like this, we are well prepared." Qatar has been in talks with both Turkey and Iran to secure supply of water and food. On 11 June 2017, Iran sent four cargo planes with fruit and vegetables and promised to continue the supply. Turkey has pledged food and water supplies to go along with their troop deployment at their Turkish military base in Qatar.
As part of the Qatari government's response to lost food imports, it provided support to domestic agricultural company Baladna, which built a new dairy farm with imported cattle that was planned to produce enough milk to fulfill domestic demand for dairy products by June 2018.[needs update]
Private jet travel is also being impacted by the crisis. Business aviation officials said private flights between Qatar and the countries that cut diplomatic ties now need to make a technical stop in a third country. Aircraft registered in Qatar cannot fly to the countries that cut diplomatic ties and vice versa. While business jet operators can request a nonstop routing, two officials said requests so far have been turned down necessitating a stop in a third country.
Due to the blockade of Qatar Airways from the airspace of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, Oman Air has taken up a significant role transporting travelers from and to Doha, mostly through Iranian airspace, while still allowing Qatar passport holders to book flights. The travel embargo has had a significant impact on foreign nationals living and working in Qatar, with about 100,000 Egyptians and citizens from other countries stranded there, unable to book direct flights or obtain travel documents for their return. Per request from Qatar, the blockade was under review by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN-agency seeking "consensus-based solutions" for the resolution of the crisis.
On 31 July 2017, the agency asserted its neutrality in the conflict and announced that Qatar Airways will have access to three contingency routes over international waters in early August based on a preliminary agreement reached with the Saudi aviation authority (GACA) early that month. The ICAO, based in Montréal, also reminded all member countries to comply with the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and its addenda.
The United Arab Emirates banned Qatar-flagged ships from calling at Fujairah. It also banned vessels from Qatar from the port and vessels at the port from sailing directly to Qatar. Similar restrictions were put in place at Jebel Ali, which pre-boycott used to handle over 85% of shipborne cargo for Qatar. Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also banned Qatar-flagged ships from their ports.
On 8 June 2017 shipping giant Maersk was unable to transport in or out of Qatar entirely. Due to Qatar's shallow ports, large cargo ships are required to dock at Jebel Ali or other nearby ports where a feeder service transports the goods into Qatar. In response, Maersk and also Swiss-based MSC vessels for Qatar were rerouted to Salalah and Sohar in Oman. Particularly smaller shipments of perishable and frozen foods have taken that route.
Hamad Saif al-Shamsi, the Attorney-General of the United Arab Emirates announced on 7 June that publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar through social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form is considered illegal under UAE's Federal Penal Code and the Federal law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. Violators of this offense face between 3 and 15 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 500,000 emirati dirhams ($136,000) or both. Bahrain also issued a similar statement with a penalty up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE all blocked access to Qatari news agencies, including the controversial Qatar-based Al Jazeera. Saudi Arabia shut down the local office of Al Jazeera Media Network. The BBC speculated that changes to Al-Jazeera would be a necessary part of any peaceful resolution.
The Qatar-based beIN Sports channels were also initially banned in June in the UAE. Over a month later, the UAE restored normal access to beIN Sports channels via its local telecom providers. In Saudi Arabia, the channels remain banned, while a large-scale signal piracy operation known as "beoutQ" has made the channels' content available.
As per S&P Global Ratings, banks in Qatar are strong enough to survive a withdrawal of all Gulf country deposits.
Qatar is a global leader in liquefied natural gas production. Despite the severing of ties, Qatari natural gas continues to flow to the UAE and Oman through Abu Dhabi based Dolphin Energy's pipeline. The pipeline meets about 30–40 percent of UAE's energy needs. Shipping constraints from the crisis have also rerouted multiple shipments of oil and gas to and from the Gulf, which has caused reverberations in many local energy markets.
On 8 June 2017, gas futures spiked nearly 4 percent in the United Kingdom, which had nearly a third of all its imported gas arriving from Qatar. A secondary effect of the dispute has been on worldwide supplies of helium, which is often extracted from natural gas. Qatar is the world's second largest supplier of helium (the US ranks first).
On 7 June 2017, the Turkish parliament passed, with 240 votes in favour and 98 against, a legislative act first drafted in May allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar. On 13 June 2017, during a speech, President of TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the boycott of Qatar as "inhumane and against Islamic values" and stated that "victimising Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose". On 23 June 2017, Turkey rejected demands to shut down its military base in Qatar.
On 30 January 2018 an inaugural United States-Qatar Strategic Dialogue meeting was held, co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence AffairsKhalid al-Attiyah and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The meeting expressed the need for an immediate resolution of the crisis which respects Qatar’s sovereignty. In a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, the United States expressed its readiness to deter and confront any external threat to Qatar’s territorial integrity. Qatar offered to help fund the expansion of facilities at US bases in Qatar.
In January 2018, Qatar's ambassador was in talks with Russia with the intent to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles. Both countries signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation in 2017. In May 2018, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported that King Salman of Saudi Arabia would take military action if Qatar installed the Russian air defence system. However, a senior Russian official remarked the system would still be delivered even against the will of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were themselves approaching Russia to improve economic and military ties in 2017, but talks relating to the arms deal were hindered by concerns the United States and Saudi Arabia had with regard to the Russian position towards Iran's military and strategic involvement in the Middle East.
On 22 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain issued Qatar a list of 13 demands through Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator, that Qatar should agree in full within 10 days, which expired on 2 July 2017. According to reports on 23 June, these demands included:
Aligning itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
According to a report by the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera, "Qatari officials immediately dismissed the document as neither reasonable or actionable." Iran denounced the blockade. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that some of the demands would be very hard to meet but encouraged further dialogue.
On 3 July, Saudi Arabia accepted a Kuwaiti request for the deadline to be extended by 48 hours.
On 5 July, foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain met in Cairo after receiving a response from Qatar to their list of demands. The meeting aimed to resolve the dispute ended in a stalemate when Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the political and economic boycott of Qatar will remain until it changes its policies. Also on the same day, the Saudi-led bloc said it no longer insisting it to comply with its 13 specific demands they tabled last month. Instead, it asked Qatar to accept six broad principles, which includes commitments to combat terrorism, extremism, to end acts of provocation, and incitement.
But, by 30 July, the 13 demands were reinstated.