Saudi Arabia has raised the stakes in the Middle East, as they issued a list of demands to Qatar. The large kingdom and its allies have given the Gulf state just ten days to shut down Al-Jazeera and curb its ties with Iran. While the consequences were left to the imagination, the land-locked nation has already suffered, with blockades keeping food and supplies from entering the country.
Iran, looking to capitalize on the situation, has already sent supplies to Qatar, as a sign of support and a gesture of goodwill. The Iranian regime sent five planes of vegetables to Qatar.
“So far, five planes carrying…vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tons of cargo, while another plane will be sent today,” said Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi in early June. He indicated that Iran will continue to deliver supplies, as long as there is a demand. He did not indicate if these were exports or aid. Ships were also loaded and sent to the nation of Qatar.
But while Iran is trying to craft an image of being the good guy, Qatar is facing an ultimatum with some steep demands. One of the main demands is that the country must pay reparations to its neighbors, hand over fugitives wanted by other Middle Eastern states and immediately cease financing terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. Altogether, there is a list of 13 wide-ranging demands, including calls for it to expel Turkish military forces from its territory and sever all connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar’s ties with Iran must also be cut, including shutting down its embassy and diplomatic posts in Iran, as well as expelling any members of the IRGC in its territory. Unlike other Gulf nations, Qatar has relatively warm ties with Iran and so it may be difficult to make such a drastic diplomatic change.
Qatar has fired back with its own demands, arguing that it will not negotiate with these four Arab countries as long as the economic and diplomatic blockade continued. The blockade began two weeks ago and has left the small state in a position of being physically and politically isolated.
Saudi Arabia itself has issued this ultimatum at a time when the Gulf, and the Middle East, are unsettled and feeling the influence of Iran in many areas, including Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, although Iran’s fingers have made inroads into other nations as well.
While Saudi Arabia did not indicate what would happen if Qatar ignored the demands, but there are fears that Saudi Arabia could become even more confrontational. Analysts, however, indicated that the broad nature of the demands seemed to indicate that they are an opening tactic to begin negotiations.
Turkey has also rejected calls for the closure of its military base in Qatar, which only houses around 200 soldiers, but has room for 5,000. The country has close ties with Qatar, and both states have been prominent supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization in some nations within the Middle East. Both Turkey and Iran have increased their food supplies to Qatar, since Saudi Arabia began the blockade.