While the Qatar crisis may have slipped from the front pages, the diplomatic standoff continues to deteriorate with the latest escalation emerging yesterday, when the UAE’s ambassador to Moscow gave an interview to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, revealing the steely resolve of the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, who initially brought their charges and subsequent sanctions to bear on the tiny country.
Omar Ghobash, the UAE’s ambassador, said that the states are considering “further economic pressure” and that they would be “willing to make themselves subject to the same western monitoring regime as Qatar to ensure key figures are not privately funding extremist groups”.
As a reminder, Qatar only has until July 3 to comply with a list of 13 demands imposed by the Saudi-led bloc, and on Tuesday, Saudi described the demands as non-negotiable: Doha must “amend its behaviour” or “remain isolated”, says Riyadh's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Erdogan has been ramping up his rhetoric in support of Qatar, and has been contemplating the deployment of troops to Doha, saying that the ultimatum “breaches international law”. Qatar is now reliant on Iran and Turkey for food imports.
Unless the demands are met by July 3 (and it seems highly unlikely that they would be or could be for some – such as the complete shutdown of Al Jazeera station that has been demanded) then this situation is likely to get a lot worse before it gets any better.
Meanwhile, as Citi notes, there has been a continued lack of reaction from ‘the West’: there is also confusion as to the stance of key historical players in the Middle East, such as the UK and the US, who have either said very little – Trump once called Qatar a “haven for terrorism”, while Rex Tillerson has twice upbraided Saudi Arabia’s approach. Last Friday, a White House spokesman told the Guardian: “The United States is still accessing the list and we are in communication with all parties. As we have said, we want to see the parties resolve this dispute and restore unity among our partners in the region, while ensuring all countries are stopping funding for terrorist groups.”