March 16, 2014 (TSR) – Saudi Arabia has demanded that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera satellite network and and expulsion of two US think tanks – identified as Brookings Doha Center and the Rand Qatar Policy Institute — would be sufficient to prevent Qatar from “being punished”, i.e. being blocked by land and sea, during a recent meeting of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council.
Qatar is reportedly not taking the threat of a sea blockade seriously, but its land border with Saudi Arabia could easily be closed by Saudi forces.
After the reportedly heated March 5 PGCC meeting, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from fellow member Qatar, which they accuse of interfering in their internal affairs and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal had demanded three things of Doha — “to close the (Qatari-owned) Al-Jazeera network, which stirs sedition; close the research centers in Doha (Brookings Doha Centre and the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies), and turn over all outlaws” on its territory, a source close to PGCC officials said.
Doha’s foreign minister replied that the demand constituted “interference in Qatar’s internal affairs,” the same source said.
On March 7, Saudi Arabia listed Muslim Brotherhood along with several other groups as terrorist organizations. According to the new law, those who join or back the groups could face five to 30 years in jail.
The Saudi move, which was slammed by the Brotherhood, came after Egypt’s military-backed interim government decided to label the group a terrorist organization last December after the ouster of the country’s Brotherhood-backed president, Mohamed Morsi, in July.
Egypt has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being responsible for a deadly bomb attack on a police headquarters building in the Delta Nile city of Mansoura in December 2013, which left at least 15 people dead. The group has condemned the attack and denied involvement in the incident.
Following the example of neighboring Saudi Arabia, the UAE labeled Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization on March 8.
Qatar is seen as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates across the region, which are banned in most Persian Gulf states.
Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states have long been hostile toward the Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grass-roots activism could undermine their authority.
Saudi Arabia and the other two states accused Doha of giving refuge to opposition figures and of even giving some of them citizenship.
Critics have long accused the influential pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera of biased coverage in favor of the Brotherhood, and several of its journalists are on trial in Egypt for allegedly supporting the group.
Some Persian Gulf states hailed the Egyptian military’s July overthrow of president Mohammad Morsi — a former senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood — and pledged billions in aid. Qatar, which had strongly supported him, has seen its influence in Cairo evaporates.