Periscope: Summary of the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis

Written by Wong Sean Yew (EJC Press and ESAS) and Clarence Sim (EJC Press and ESAS) 

Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)

Foreword

The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis is an issue that involves multiple nations largely in the Middle East. Singapore and Qatar have often been compared, due to their similar geopolitical attributes as small states. This unresolved crisis is still ongoing and its effects plague Qatar even to this day. In this article, we documented a short summary on the key details of this issue. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.

Background

The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis was sparked by statements that were allegedly made by Qatar News Agency, a state-run Qatari news agency. It portrayed the Qatar Emir making disparaging comments about Trump’s presidency, suggesting good relations with Iran and Israel, while commending Hamas militants. Although the Qatar News Agency has claimed that this was a result of cyberattacks, the surrounding countries, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen, has alleged that this is Qatar’s official position in the region; that it supported terrorist organisations (Kirkpatrick & Frenkel, 2017). As a result, many severed relations with Qatar, erasing all border links with her, causing a diplomatic crisis. Furthermore, most of them closed their airspace to Qatar, causing the national carrier to divert and cancel flights across the region, inconveniencing hundreds of travellers. Heavily reliant on imports across its border with Saudi Arabia, Qatari citizens initially rushed to buy up foodstuffs, but this has been greatly relieved with external help. Qatar’s enemies have issued a list of demands to Qatar for relief from their restrictions, but Qatar refused, as it claims that it is a contravention of their sovereignty (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2017). Qatar claims to be able to withstand the crisis, with its vast reserves and imports from other countries (The Straits Times, 2017).

Points of Contention
While the crisis has multiple points of contention, we will focus on two of the main points.

Rising Nationalism (UC: Identity)

The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis has resulted in a sharp increase in nationalism among many Qataris, many who rally around the Qatari Emir in support of his resistance against the issued demands. Along with an increase in the number of displays of national imagery, such as the Qatari royal family and the national flag, many eligible Qataris have also voluntarily enlisted themselves into the military out of patriotism. The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis seems to have become a defining event in the rise and augmentation of the Qatari national identity, which has already been strengthening due to Qatar’s progress over the past few decades (Cafiero, 2017).

Nationalism: Political ideology. A sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 

The Issue of Small States (UC: Power and Influence)

Eminent diplomat Kishore Mahbubani has stated that the situation in Qatar should serve as a valuable lesson for small states such as Singapore. He claimed that due to their wealth and the close relationship with the United States of America, Qatar frequently intervened in various regional situations such as those in Syria and Yemen. Their attempted projections of power and influence resulted in a response from the prominent powers in the Middle East, causing a diplomatic crisis. This could be applied to Singapore, a similar small state. Hence, he believes Singapore should be restrained in its statements if it involves larger powers (Mahbubani, 2017).

Some have also postulated that the cause of this crisis could be Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was claimed that the surrounding countries were afraid of the potential power and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as demonstrated in the Brotherhood’s rise in politics in the wake of the Arab Spring, and hence decided to ignite this diplomatic crisis in order to stop Qatari support for the group (Trager, 2017).

Discussion: Should small states actively advocate for their own interests or ‘act their size’?

For an opposing view, do look at Bilahari Kausikan’s piece on The Straits Times, “Singapore cannot be cowed by size”.

References
For further reading, feel free to access the following links

Kirkpatrick, D. M., & Frenkel, S. (2017, June 09). Hacking in Qatar Highlights a Shift Toward Espionage-for-Hire. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/08/world/middleeast/qatar-cyberattack-espionage-for-hire.html 

British Broadcasting Corporation. (2017, July 19). Qatar crisis: What you need to know.  Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40173757 

The Straits Times (2017, July 17) Qatar Crisis: How the Gulf nation is responding to blockade by bigger neighbours. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/world/middle-east/qatar-crisis-how-the-gulf-nation-is-responding-to-blockade-by-bigger-neighbours

Cafiero, G. (2017, July 7) A rising wave of Qatari nationalism. Retrieved from https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/a-rising-wave-of-qatari-nationalism-8594

Mahbubani, K. (2017, July 02). Qatar: Big lessons from a small country. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/qatar-big-lessons-from-a-small-country

Trager, E. (2017, July 02). The Muslim Brotherhood Is the Root of the Qatar Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/muslim-brotherhood-qatar/532380/

Merriam-Webster (n.d.). Nationalism. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nationalism

 

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