Saudi Arabia faces terror claims
THE DISPUTE between Qatar and other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – is escalating with both sides refusing to back down.
One of the major points of friction between the two sides is the allegation that Qatar is “supporting terrorism”.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and non-GCC member, Egypt, accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and backing a number of groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, in an ironic development, a foreign policy think tank has accused Saudi Arabia of being the chief promoter of Islamist extremism in Britain.
On Wednesday, the foreign ministers and intelligence heads of the three GCC countries and Egypt met in Cairo to discuss the escalation as the deadline for Qatar to respond to a list of demands passed.
The meeting followed Qatar making it clear that the demands were against international law, “unreasonable and undoable”.
The bloc has demanded among other things that the Al Jazeera TV network based in the Qatari capital Doha be closed down, that Qatar rethink its ties with Iran and that Turkey’s military base in the country be closed.
Following Qatar’s defiance the four countries said they would step up sanctions on Qatar, which is already reeling from a land, air and sea blockade imposed since the crisis erupted about a month ago.
Turkey and Iran have been trying to meet food and other shortages by flying in supplies to Qatar.
With Kuwait trying to mediate, Doha has said it will not at this point retaliate by cutting off the natural gas shipments it pipes to Dubai.
The dispute has dragged regional powers into the fray. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has underlined his support for Qatar.
The US has a large military base in Qatar and the Pentagon has backed Qatar’s fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. In contradiction, the White House has echoed Saudi Arabia’s demand for Doha to cut ties with “terrorists”.
The Henry Jackson Society think tank in Britain said there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations receiving overseas funds, hate preachers and Jihadist groups promoting violence in the UK and Riyadh.
The claim came as the British government faces pressure to issue its own report on UK-based Islamist groups, after a series of deadly bomb blasts carried out by religious extremists in the country.
The report may embarrass London, which has close ties with the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia.