[Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in a file photo.]
Dubai (United Arab Emirates): Four Arab nations cut diplomatic ties to Qatar early Monday morning, further deepening a rift between Gulf Arab nations over latter's support for Islamist groups including Hezbollah and Muslim Brotherhood.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all announced they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar, a gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to Associated Press.
Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops would be pulled from its ongoing war in Yemen.
All the nations also said they planned to cut air and sea traffic to the peninsular country. It wasn’t immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers.
Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.
Tensions rose in the Gulf soon after US president Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia when a series of controversial comments attributed to Qatar’s emir, appeared in local media creating a row that led to the blocking of Doha-aligned news websites in some neighboring states.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s alleged comments, carried by the official state news agency QNA, apparently saw him endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — strongly diverging from the stance of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors.
Doha claimed the report was the result of a hacking attack — but its Gulf neighbors responded nonetheless, particularly after the same comments were repeated in more than one language, on more than one outlet and at various times of the day in a manner which makes the story true and the hacking seem less likely.
Qatar maintains that the statement posted to QNA was the result of a hack, and says it is being investigated. But the report in question was simultaneously posted in different languages and on social media platforms, where they remained, according to Al Arabiya.
The remarks led to a widespread backlash on social media, while access to some Qatar-sponsored media outlets was restricted elsewhere in the Gulf.
The emir’s alleged comments were in line with recent criticism waged against the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by other Qatar-sponsored media outlets such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arab and the London-based Middle East Eye.
Sheikh Tamim also allegedly spoke of “tensions” with the new US administration and predicted that US President Donald Trump will not last long, citing domestic political problems in Washington over ties with Russia.
Sheikh Tamim also seems to have praised Iran, which even the previous US administration under President Obama labeled as the “biggest state sponsor of terror.”