Trump sides with Saudis, other Arab nations against Qatar

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates announced they would break diplomatic ties with Qatar over the latter's alleged support of terrorism. Dubai-based Emirates and FlyDubai, Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi, and Air Arabia of Sharjah were set to cease flights to Doha on June 6.

Trump met with Qatar's emir during the president's visit to Saudi Arabia last month.

As Western countries, including the U.S., are working to resolve the crisis between Gulf States and Qatar, President Trump chose to accuse the energy-rich country of funding a "radical ideology". Other countries later followed suit.

People inside Qatar, which is hosting football's 2022 World Cup, have flocked to supermarkets to stockpile food. It has also applauded Kuwait's offer to mediate talks.

A statement from Riyadh formally cutting ties on Monday accused Doha of harbouring "terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilise the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, Isis and Al-Qaeda".

Trump took to Twitter to say that leaders in the Middle East told him Qatar was funding terrorism during his recent trip to the area.

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The move came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with the leaders of Qatar, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on decreasing tensions, Turkey's presidential sources said.

Within minutes, regional news channels had seized on the remarks, generating outrage throughout the Gulf states.

Qatar Air has expressed interest in Royal Air Maroc, it's negotiating the purchase of a 49 percent stake in Italy's Meridiana SpA, and Al Baker has said he aims to set up an airline in India with a fleet of 100 narrow-body planes.

With its vast reserves of natural gas as leverage, Qatar is keen to become a major player in the region and isn't too fussy about who it courts to further those ambitions, reaching out to everyone from Tokyo to the Taliban. Moreover, Qatari participation in the Arab anti-terror coalition was also suspended. Any suggestion that Qatar is aiding and abetting Shia Iran - the majority Sunni Gulf's arch-rival - is particularly sensitive.

Officials involved in the deal said Qatar agreed to pay Iran and its affiliated militias $700m (£543m). The diplomatic spat between Qatar and its Middle East neighbors threatens to scuttle those ambitions.

The mounting hostility could have "far-reaching consequences" for USA foreign policy, says The Atlantic.

The biggest diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf since the 1991 US-led war against Iraq pits several nations against Qatar, which is home to some 10,000 American troops and a major USA military base.

Washington will be monitoring the situation closely.

"I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism in the region or globally", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday. "[But] the Middle East needs a paradigm shift to move away from ideological struggles and focus on economic development", he said.

  • Zachary Reyes