Thanks to the blessing of energy reserves, Qatar is the richest country per-capita in the world, with a stunning $145,000 GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity. The same figure in the United States is slightly less than $60,000. But, the population only numbers about two and a half million and the country, home to about 10,000 American troops, generally makes news in the West due to its hosting of the FIFA World Cup rather than political shenanigans. That doesn’t mean the country is not active politically. Al-Jazeera, the Middle-East media juggernaut, calls Qatar its home. Now, seven important countries in the region are escalating their diplomatic disputes with Qatar by cutting off ties to the country. Those countries are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and the Maldives. All seven of the countries informed Qatari citizens they had 14 days to return home.
What sparked the dispute remains difficult to pinpoint. Saudi Arabia blamed Qatar for the dispute, saying it was due to the country’s “embrace of terrorist groups” and cited support for the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and various Iran-back groups. Confusingly, these groups themselves are often in conflict with each other. Iran has been particularly hostile to ISIS, which has been in an on-going war with its Syrian client.
A similar dispute rose to the surface in 2014 but was later resolved. Flames were fanned again, it appears, from a speech in May given by Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a Qatari Emir, in which he criticized the United States and voiced support for both Hamas and The Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar’s support for various terrorist organizations appears to be strategic rather than ideological. It is a small and vulnerable state that likes to give support to both sides in conflicts to ensure its own survival and maximize its influence. Within Qatar itself, political activities are largely forbidden.