Yesterday’s 24-hour ultimatum by Saudi Arabia requiring Qatar to make massive changes to their foreign policy and shut down their state media forever has come and gone, with Qatari officials insisting that there will be “no surrender” amid the ongoing dispute and that they won’t compromise their sovereignty.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all severed ties with Qatar several days ago, with the split heavily centered around long-standing resentment of Qatar’s state media backing democratic reform during the Arab Spring.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani today made clear that they are totally unwilling to change their foreign policy position over the ongoing blockade by the Saudis and their allies, and that they are prepared to live under embargo forever, noting they have the backing of the rest of the international community.
The Saudi demands sought Qatar to agree to wholesale changes in their foreign policy as well as to make a public, irrevocable pledge to always take the foreign policy position consistent with the GCC, which is generally just the position of the Saudi kingdom.
Qatar’s positions are generally not wildly different from some other GCC member nations, though they have the most in common Oman. The demands to sever all ties with Iran and expel everyone that the Saudis believe are “hostile” to the GCC would be a dangerous precedent to set, and Oman and Kuwait are both trying to help negotiated some sort of solution short of this total surrender.
And while President Trump made a point of praising the Saudi move against Qatar initially, he too is now offering to negotiate a deal, raising speculation that he may well have had no idea that Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the region.
There is still no indication of what the Saudis intend to do about Qatar ignoring the ultimatum, but predictions yesterday that they would respond with an immediate military invasion were clearly not true, and there’s no sign that the Saudis would even attempt to impose regime change militarily against the nation.