Qatar is preparing contingencies to ward off economic pressure threatened by its Gulf neighbors amid a continued diplomatic stand-off over the role of political Islam in the region.
Executives in Doha say official planning is under way to deal with any potential sanctions, despite officials’ belief that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will refrain from raising tensions further after last week’s withdrawal of ambassadors.
The dispute erupted at a stormy meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council this month as Saudi officials threatened to close air space or its land border to Qatar unless Doha reins in support for the pan-Arab Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are concerned that Doha’s close relations with the Brotherhood — banned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — is dividing the six members of the GCC.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading backers of Egypt’s interim military-led regime under Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, which last year ousted Mohammad Mursi, the elected Islamist president and one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading figures.
UAE and Saudi leaders met Field Marshal Al Sissi last week after Egyptian troops arrived in the UAE for military exercises.
Of the other GCC members, Kuwait is acting as mediator while Oman usually avoids involvement in intra-Arab disputes, although observers say that Muscat is concerned at the aggressive measures being taken against Qatar.