Qatar and Persian Gulf crisis explored in new book by Rice, Baker Institute expert

An international standoff in the Middle East essentially began with a triggering event unique to the 21st century: the hacking of the Qatar News Agency.

Just a couple of weeks later, on June 5, 2017, the self-proclaimed “Anti-Terror Quartet” of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt suddenly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. By the end of the day, Qatar was under a land, air and sea blockade. The isolation of Qatar continues to this day.

Now this ongoing crisis is explored in a new book by an expert in Middle East affairs at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “Qatar and the Gulf Crisis” by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East at the Baker Institute, uses first-person accounts and a wide range of media and academic sources to create “a comprehensive read on this regional tension,” according to the LSE Review of Books.

Courtesy of the author, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen.

“I wanted to explore in depth a real-life clash that seemed to epitomize the era in which news and fake news are blended together as never before, and examine how a crisis which erupted in the Persian Gulf during the first months of the Trump presidency has created new realities that have reshaped regional politics in an area of great strategic and commercial value to the United States,” Ulrichsen said.

The standoff basically started with the news agency hack 12 days before the blockade officially began. What followed was a campaign of “fake news designed to justify the sub­sequent attempt to isolate Qatar,” Ulrichsen writes The author describes this is an “international crisis symptomatic of the ‘alternative facts’ era of the Donald Trump presidency.”

The blockade is the most serious rupture in the Persian Gulf since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Ulrichsen says.

The blockade “ripped at the social and familial ties that have connected the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula for genera­tions,” he wrote. “Qatar and the Gulf Crisis” examines the multifaceted Qatari policy responses through politics and society, economy and trade, energy and infrastructure, regional and foreign affairs, and defense and security matters.

Ulrichsen sees no end to the crisis. Unlike previous disputes in the region, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have “defied all attempts at mediation and resolution,” he wrote, and “fake news” media campaigns are still targeting Qatar, including its role as host of the FIFA World Cup in 2022 — a first for the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.

To schedule an interview with Ulrichsen or for more information on his book, contact Avery Franklin, media relations specialist at Rice, at averyrf@rice.edu or 713-348-6327.

About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.