For those not paying attention over the long-term, the sudden split between the Saudi-dominated GCC and the Qatari government seemed very sudden. Seemingly close allies over the long term were very quickly at odds, diplomats expelled, borders closed, planes denied landing permission.
The situation has gone on a lot lander than the last few days, of course, and in many ways goes back to the Arab Spring uprisings earlier in the decade, and the Qatari state media’s general support for the big protest movements calling for democratic reforms.
With military dictators cracking down on unrest and demonstrators calling for free elections, al-Jazeera and others quickly took sides with the protests, and that didn’t sit well at all with the more dictator-friendly nations in the GCC, or particularly Bahrain,, who had a bloody crackdown of its own going on.
Some dictators fell, and with dissent in those countries largely only possible within the mosque, religious groups, mainly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, won big in the elections, Democratic Islamism was a big winner, and Qatar was eager to line up and set up ties with those nations.
The GCC, not so much. Saudi Arabia in particular saw free elections as a major threat to the royal family, and considered the Muslim Brotherhood virtually a terrorist organization for preaching democracy in the face of the region’s traditional tyrants.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated democratic government rose, and quickly fell to a military coup, and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC quickly and vocally backed the new junta. A Muslim Brotherhood-heavy parliament rose in Libya, and Egypt’s junta and the UAE started throwing military support behind Gen. Khalifa Hifter for his own coup, quickly splitting the government.
The resentment surrounding Qatar has lingered, however, and whenever their state media starts broadcasting something a little too far outside of the Saudi comfort zone. The most recent case quoted the Qatari Emir warning against a military confrontation against Iran, which infuriated all the GCC states salivating for a new sectarian war, and quickly spiraled out of control.