The June 5 decision of the Saudi Arabia-led group of Arab nations to isolate Qatar, another kingdom in West Asia, by snapping diplomatic relations with it shows that there is growing uneasiness in the region, particularly with regard to political stability. There is a clear indication that the countries which have swiftly moved against a brother nation, the richest in the world in terms of per capita income, feel seriously threatened by extremist movements active in the region. Interestingly, they are all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), all close US allies, and there is a Shia ruler (Bahrain) in the company of Sunni rulers belonging to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Yemen campaigning against Qatarâ€™s Sunni monarch, accusing him of not only supporting extremist outfits like the Islamic State (IS) and the Muslim Brotherhood (also called Ikhwanul Muslimeen) but also building bridges of understanding with Shia Iran and Jewish Israel.
On the face of it, the crisis appears to be linked to the Saudi-Iranian rivalry for dominance of the Muslim-majority region. However, a closer look at it brings out the fact that the comparatively liberal Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was clandestinely working for a new future order in the region, not to the liking of those controlling the levers of power today. At this stage, it is difficult to understand what exactly has been going on in Qatar that provoked the five countries to come out openly against it. But one can easily believe that all that has happened must have been caused by some innovative and provocative idea.
Qatar has been suspected of nursing adventurous intentions ever since it allowed the Al-Jazeera TV network to have its headquarters in its capital, Doha, from where it can function with considerable independence provided it ignores uncomfortable political happenings in the host country. Monarchs can never allow an independent media organization like Al-Jazeera to prosper in their midst, but they tolerated the affairs of Qatarâ€™s Emir with it on grounds of its being a credible answer to Western media networks which see any development in the region with their tinted glasses. But now it seems Qatarâ€™s neighbours have vowed to prevent it from playing independent political games. They are no longer prepared to tolerate Qatarâ€™s independent line of approach, particularly when the oil and gas-exporting Arabs are faced with an economic slowdown with their oil revenues declining because of the downward movement in the prices of crude in the international market.