March 20, 2018

GCC Crisis

June 2017 witnessed an unprecedented escalation of tensions among the Gulf Cooperation Council states, culminating with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain severing ties with Qatar. AGSIW offers insights into the ongoing tensions and identifies the implications for Qatar and its GCC neighbors.


Self-Imposed Barriers to Economic Integration in the GCC

By Karen E. Young

Qatar has lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain for blocking its air traffic and increasing the costs of basic food and medicine imports. Though intra-Gulf state economic relations continue to suffer as a result of the current crisis, there are long-standing barriers to trade and investment flows that deserve consideration. Since the inception of the Gulf Cooperation Council, there have been deep tensions on ceding sovereignty and facilitating the free movement of people, finance, and ideas. While trade flows between the GCC states have been increasing in recent years, some of the most important added value of integration has been in the facilitation of investment flows, the free movement of GCC citizens, and large shared infrastructure investment, such as the Dolphin pipeline between Qatar, the UAE, and Oman.
Read more


Washington’s Competing Priorities in the Qatar Crisis

By Hussein Ibish

On June 20, a U.S. State Department spokesperson announced what seemed to be a crucial shift in the U.S. approach to the confrontation between a group of Washington’s core Arab allies – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – and another major partner, Qatar. Noting that “it’s been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar.” Now, she pointedly added, “we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long simmering grievances between and among the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries?”
Read more


Qatar Crisis Heightens Obstacles to the Economic Reform Agenda

By Karen E. Young

The isolation of Qatar is but one example of how the politics of the Gulf Arab states are getting in the way of economic diversification and transformation. While there are professed visions of change away from state-led growth, in which new private sector dynamism and the expansion of Gulf equity markets would employ citizens and wean states from oil and gas revenue, the realities of politics on the ground in the last two weeks demonstrate there are more powerful forces at play.
Read more


Unfulfilled 2014 Riyadh Agreement Defines Current GCC Rift

By Hussein Ibish

Historical context is essential to understanding the escalating rift among the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain broke diplomatic relations with Qatar in 2014. Back then the dispute was resolved within weeks. This time, these three countries, now backed by Egypt, Yemen, and others, have not only broken relations with Doha, they have cut all trade and travel ties, instructed their citizens to return home, and ordered Qatari diplomats to leave within 48 hours and private citizens within 14 days, among other extraordinary gestures. The crisis this time is much deeper, in that it involves broader sanctions, and far wider, in that it draws in more countries. The dispute now rests on what Saudi Arabia and the UAE say are unfulfilled promises from 2014, and additional demands regarding Iran.
Read more


Saudi Leadership and Qatar Media

By Kristin Smith Diwan

This week has seen a precipitous escalation in what is now the sharpest crisis in the history of the Gulf Cooperation Council since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Three members of the GCC – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, joined by Egypt and others – cut off ties to Qatar in a bold, high-stakes move to alter its behavior. Their actions amount to a coordinated attempt to exert maximum pressure on the peninsula state’s leadership, restricting not only diplomatic relations, but the flow of goods and people.
Read more