While it is not wholly unexpected, the decision of four Gulf countries to conclude diplomatic ties with Qatar still comes as startling news. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have made an official announcement to this effect. The reason for the cutoff of diplomatic relations with Qatar is the latter's continued support to radical Islamist groups, says the official announcement. The pull-out has brought to a close a 36-year long relation between the countries.
Saudi Arabia quotes national security reasons
The state news agency in Saudi Arabia made an announcement that the pull out of diplomats and a formal cut-off of ties with Qatar is being done with a view to preserving the nation's security from extremism and terrorism. The statement also went on to confirm that ports of entry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar will be sealed forthwith.
UAE has given Qataris a 2-week notice period to leave the country and they have been banned from entering the country, as well. In Bahrain, Qatar diplomats had just 48 hours to leave the country before ports and airspace are closed officially.
An influential alliance comes to an end
Along with these four countries, Kuwait and Oman are part of an alliance with Qatar, known as the Gulf Cooperation Council. With the four nations pulling out of ties with Qatar only Kuwait and Oman continue to be part of the alliance now. Until now this Council was deemed to be a very powerful one, wielding a lot of clout in the Middle East region. The fate of the Council remains in the balance now although it is quite clear that it can no longer be viewed as an influential one with the majority of the countries not being willing to have any relations with Qatar.
Emir's comments stir up controversy
The issue was sparked off by the Emir Sheikh Al Thani's comments about Iran, hailing it as the 'Islamic Power' and strongly condemning U.S.'s policy toward Tehran. The comments were publicized by the Qatar official news agency some two weeks ago. Later, Qatar claimed that the comment had not been actually made by the Emir but had been posted by hackers of the website.
The comments and the resulting furor only served to highlight and further widen the gap between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The latter has already had a number of disagreements with Iran and is also viewed as being somewhat unnerved by Iran's growing nuclear prowess.