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Qatar rejoins the Arab world with embargo lifted

By Natalie Gao and Pavana Upadhyaya Feb. 3, 2021

Jessica Lin Art

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain have followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in lifting embargoes on Qatar with mediation from the U.S. and Kuwait. In June 2017, all four countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, which included restricting airspace, closing land borders and refusing to allow Qatari ships to dock at domestic ports.

The four gulf states initiated these sanctions after demanding Qatar end its alleged financial support of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which Qatar denies, according to British Broadcasting Corporation. The countries then released a total list of 13 conditions to end the blockade on Doha, including shutting down Al Jazeera, a newspaper historically critical towards Saudi Arabia, and ending relations with gulf state adversaries Iran and Turkey. In the end, Qatar signed an agreement to restore cooperation with the other nations at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit (GCC) on Jan. 5 after several years of restrictions.

“The U.S. brokering and ending the embargo on Qatar was a good idea because Qatar is key to U.S. dominance in the Middle East, allowing Americans to access the gulf coasts and to establish military bases and oil extraction fields, increasing American hegemony in the region,” Junior Conner Shih said.

Mending relations with Qatar may have been a way for Saudi Arabia to remedy affairs with the Biden administration, especially when President Joe Biden is aiming to reconsider relations with Saudi Arabia, according to Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Saudi Arabia has bought upwards of $100 billion worth of arms from the U.S., while the U.S. has a major military base on Qatar. Thus, easing tensions may have a mutual benefit for all countries involved while also unifying a divided region.

Qatar was left relatively unscathed, with the country’s economy barely impacted by the embargo, according to CBS. The blockade allowed further development of local food suppliers in Qatar, bolstering its industry to better compete with the rest of the Gulf market. Moreover, accumulated wealth and natural gas reserves mitigated any serious impacts the embargo may have had. Instead, the restrictions brought Qatar closer to Iran and Turkey. The two countries increased trade with Qatar at the beginning of the blockade, easing economic ramifications and allowing Qatar to increase its military power. Even as a small peninsula nation, Qatar has established itself as a mediator between the U.S. and Iran, as its strengthening relations with Iran could prove valuable for U.S. diplomacy while the Biden administration tries to rebuild relations

“Even after ending restrictions, Doha’s neighbors will probably still be suspicious because the U.S. and Kuwait brokered the agreement and they were not as directly involved in the issue. There will still be tensions between countries and distrust in trade, so I am not sure of the extent to which lifting the Qatar embargo will remediate Middle East relations,” Junior Audrey Wu said.

Despite possible successes, the ending of the blockade is not an ultimate resolution to Middle East tensions. Many see it as a step toward future peace in the region, but conflicts still remain as Qatar tries to strike a delicate balance between the U.S., its gulf neighbors, Turkey and Iran. For example, Qatar has accused Bahrain of violating its airspace, escalating tensions between the two countries.

While relations have simmered between the countries involved, in the case of conflict, Qatar will have to choose a side. The GCC agreement was a start, but the world must wait to see if the Arab countries will be able to mend and strengthen relationships with Qatar.


About the Contributors

Natalie Gao

Staff Writer

Natalie Gao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She likes playing Tetris and making mac and cheese in her free time.

Pavana Upadhyaya

Staff Writer

Pavana Upadhyaya is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer. She likes to read nonfiction in her free time

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