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The curious timing of the Qatar crisis

The latest Middle East crisis, the rift between Qatar and its Gulf Cooperation Council partners, has come at a sensitive time for the Gulf states.
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Shortly after US President Donald Trump delivered his historic address to the US-Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh, seeking to align Washington’s traditional Arab allies against Iran and its regional agenda, a new Middle East crisis erupted. The rift between Qatar and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners threatens to have far-reaching geopolitical implications.

On June 5, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over allegations that Doha is supporting terrorism and embracing Iran and its regional agenda. The bloc, which harbors long-standing grievances against Doha over its ideological and financial support for various regional Islamist groups, including providing shelter to Hamas and Taliban officials, announced that Qatari diplomats would be expelled. Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini airlines piled on, announcing that all flights to and from Qatar would be canceled, with immediate ramifications for the thousands of Qatari pilgrims observing hajj in Mecca during the holy month of Ramadan. Qatar Airlines was also blocked from entering Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini airspace as the diplomatic crisis deepened throughout June 5. As Qatar’s only land border is with Saudi Arabia, rumors are swirling of impending GCC sanctions against Qatar. The threat of a potential shutdown of goods flowing into the emirate, including food and basic supplies, has sent thousands of panicked residents to the supermarkets.

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