The GCC-Qatar Crisis by Kevin Dupont (F’19)

by tuftsigl
Jul 16

This summer, I am conducting research into the corporate and security environments of the Arabian Gulf, with a particular focus on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. For those who may not be as familiar with the region, the Arabian Gulf states (also known as GCC states, which stands for Gulf Cooperation Council) had a seismic shift in June of 2017 as the group of Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia effectively exiled nearby Qatar from their former alliance. This was done because the Saudi Arabia-led group determined that Qatar was funding terrorists in order to achieve some kind of regional security. While this reasoning has been thoroughly challenged, the diplomatic crisis remains, one year later.

What makes this crisis an “actual crisis”?

  1. Embargoes (on trade and political relations)
  2. Travel (a flight that once took 40 minutes is now two flights that takes five hours in total)
  3. Politics (Qatar was thriving, other states tried and failed to stop it)


My research is particularly relevant as the diplomatic crisis continues into its second year.  Corporations that operate in the region have faced difficult decisions, either to conduct their affairs within the Saudi-bloc or in Qatar. While most have been able to navigate the waters of the current political scene, many firms still have to hide their Qatari affairs from the Saudis and Emiratis. For example, a multinational company that conducts some of its work in Qatar must route all of its correspondence through its European office, so that it cannot be traced from the UAE to its recipient in Qatar. On a larger scale, the airline industry has faced large changes, as flights bound for Qatar have not been able to fly through UAE airspace. This has caused travel disruptions, longer travel times and higher ticket prices. A ticket that once cost around $150 now costs $750.

My time in the UAE this summer has highlighted a business environment that is future-focused but remains tied to the past. Business decisions in the UAE (and the GCC as a whole) are made based on long-standing values and networks that were created before the country reached its modern state.  This is primarily due to the history of the GCC states, which began as a number of familial tribes divided across the region. Eventually, these became the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman, with the Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia) and Al-Nahyan (UAE) being two of the more prominent political figures in recent years. However despite its young age of 47, the UAE remains a prominent figure in the global political system as a highly-regarded representative to one of the most politically uncertain regions of the globe.

I look forward to moving my research to Qatar, examining how this conflict is affecting the Qatari business environment and the response to the diplomatic rift.

*Kevin Dupont is a rising second-year Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy (MALD) student at the Fletcher School, studying International Security and International Business Relations. He received his undergraduate degrees from Brandeis University (2016) in International Studies and Anthropology.