Could Qatar face a military intervention? | The World Weekly
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional body of six Arab Gulf states, has been thrown into the biggest crisis since its existence, as several members have cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar. Shortly after the announcement, images emerged of Qatari residents stocking up on food and other supplies, as the peninsula heavily depends on imports. Some have even raised the possibility of a military intervention if Doha does not comply.
While the current crisis was sparked by an apparent hacking attack, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain accuse Doha of supporting groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but also Islamic State and al-Qaeda. What is more, the three GCC members allege Qatar is attempting to destabilise their governments, also citing its relations with regional rival Iran.
Qatar denies these charges, but other countries aligned with Riyadh, including Egypt, followed suit and suspended relations.
Many observers see Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the West, as responsible for the spread of Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam which has been linked with militant groups such as Islamic State or al-Qaeda. Riyadh has spent billions to spread Wahhabism around the world. Qatar also adheres to Wahhabism and its ruling al-Thani family stems from the province of modern-day Saudi Arabia where Wahhabism originated in the 18th century.
Qatar has been hosting various Islamist figures, ranging from Palestinian Hamas officials to Taliban members and Egyptian clerics wanted by Cairo on its soil. Its al-Jazeera news outlet has long given voice to non-state actors, including Islamists, who challenge the status quo and has played a key role in supporting the Arab uprisings. Other Gulf states have been highly critical of the pan-Arab channel’s coverage, accusing it of bias and inciting violence.
The anti-Qatar bloc is reportedly demanding a drastic shift in Doha’s policies, including the expulsion of Islamist figures and changes in al-Jazeera’s reporting, or even a closure of the network. As The World Weekly went to press, mediation efforts were still underway.
However, unlike other crises in the past, this time tensions could go beyond diplomatic and economic repercussions. “The risk of the ongoing Qatar crisis escalating and resulting in a military confrontation is real,” says Giorgio Cafiero, co-founder of Gulf State Analytics. This, he told TWW, would force the US and Turkey to make some difficult decisions as both have a military presence in Qatar.