the home of online investigations

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

Satellite Imagery Confirms Qatari Isolation

June 9, 2017

By Chris Biggers

Translations: Русский

Left: Planet imagery of Qatar’s As Salwa Border Crossing dated 07JUN17 / Right: 05JUN17

As the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the rest of the GCC states unfolds, food, among other commodities, could be in short supply if some agreement isn’t reached soon.  Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt suspended their relationship with Qatar citing the country’s ties to Iran and other Islamist groups.  In doing so, the Arab states cut all modal links with the country, halting imports traversing their territory.

New satellite imagery acquired by Planet confirms the developments cited in recent news reports. The space snapshots show the land route connecting Qatar to the rest of the Arabian peninsula, closed as of 07JUN17. The As Salwa border crossing, located less than two miles from the Saudi state boundary, is the only legitimate land-based border crossing between the two countries.  Imagery from 05JUN17, just two days prior, show a busy crossing with trucks parked in both the primary and secondary inspection areas.

Unfortunately for Qatar, the desert country relies heavily on imports to feed its 2.3 million people. In particular, its two nearest neighbors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, provide access to almost 30% of its food supply, according to data provided by the World Bank and reported by Bloomberg. The country also depends heavily on regional supply chains, particularly those in the UAE,  for re-exports. Rumors have already begun to circulate suggesting Kuwait and Oman, and perhaps Iran, could help fill the gap until the crisis has ended.

In addition to the land border, Qatar’s $7.4 billion Hamad port which recently began container operations last December, will also likely be affected. Planet imagery reviewed from 06, 07, and 08 June 2017, showed no mega container ships at the port since 04JUN17. Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said that it could no longer transport goods in and out of Qatar and will require alternative shipping routes.

Chris Biggers

Chris Biggers is a public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

13 Comments

  1. grouper42

    Turkey is sending 3,000 troops to Qatar. Reportedly there’s a new base that was built in Qatar for these 3,000 Turkish troops. I sure can’t find anything on this new base. Maybe, you can find and post some sat images of this new “secret’ Turkish military installation in Qatar. It’s also possible that these 3,000 Turkish troops could be bedding down in a compound attached to Al-Udeid Air Base?
    Source (one of many/8 June 17); https://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-agrees-to-send-up-to-3000-troops-to-qatar-amid-gulf-diplomatic-crisis/3892808.html

    Reply
    • DPI

      Turkish press already published pics and location of this not so secret base. Turks are deployed at Qatar’s Al Rayyan base next to Al Udaid air base where US CENTCOM has 10K personnel and +100 aircraft.
      Also 3000 is the maximum number of troops to be deployed in a couple of years to train Qataris and enhance already existing defence industry cooperation btw Turkey and Qatar. Not a game changer in my view.
      I also think US will never allow Saudis (who are as “innocent” as Snow White when it comes to funding/arming sunni jihadists!) to corner Qatar for too long as this may 1) push them closer to Iran (and may be Russia) 2) trigger breakdown or GCC when US is engineering a sunni muslim NATO against Iran.
      So big drama…

      Reply
      • grouper42

        I believe Al Rayyan base is Al Udeid Air Base? Where are the Turks going to put their military aircraft? I was deployed to Qatar 3 times and the locals called Al Udeid Air Base “Al Rayyan Air Base”. I think the name is used because the base is located in the Al Rayyan Municipality.

        Reply
      • grouper42

        Could you please post a photo/location/source for this new Turkish Base (Al Rayyan Base). I’m having no luck finding this kind of info. Thanks.

        Reply
    • stranger

      They are a very tiny country and have no forces to withstand Saudi Arabia military, but Turkey have already directed their armed forces so Saudi wouldn’t dare to invade. Iran may support them too. But I dont say I really understand what is going on in the ME.

      Reply
      • DPI

        Sir, how can Saudis invade Qatar where US has its largest air base in Middle East supported by 10,000 US troops. (Qatar’s tiny army is 12,000 strong including coast guard). What happens if some Saudi pilot bombs US troops by mistake?
        I bet Qataris are going to capitulate and may be replace the existing ruler with a pro-Saudi one? Check their history since 1971 one cousin toppled the other for Qatari throne. Saudis and Bahrain was always part of the equation.

        Reply
  2. stranger

    Saudi claimed Qatar supports terrorists, but in the 24 day ultimatum demanded 10 steps including breaking up with Iran, and closing or changing management in Al Jazzira channel but nothing about terrorism. Actually every dog in the Middle East sponsors terrorism including Saudi itself. Pakistan and Turkey have already directed their armed forces to Qatar, so Saudi will not be able to support their ultimatum with an military force and the ultimatum would likely be not accepted.
    Obamas administration has opened a Pandora’s box, applying sanctions against Russia. Every country thinks now that it can push others by economical pressure up to food blockade in order to make to change their politics. That can end up by a big war hopefully only in the Middle East.
    While Quatar is far not a friend to Russia and the Russian plane blowing up at Sinai was reportedly related to terrorists connected with Qatar indeed. While Saudi is reportedly behind Al Queda.
    The pressure to Qatar afaik is related to its support to Iran and Khamas threatening Israel and the attempts to redivision ME in the light of the new US administration strategies. As far as I understand only.

    Reply
  3. DPI

    Qatari army has only 15 German MBTs (Leopard-2) and 9 French jets (Mirage 2000s).
    So an hypothetical war btw Saudi/UAE forces and Qatar would last a couple or hours.
    But also US/Israel/Saudi trio would not want GCC to disintegrate (Oman and Kuwait did not join Saudi side in this dispute) or Qatar to embrace Iran/Russia and kick out USAF from its bases in Qatar. So whatever will happen will be negotiated behind closed doors and not a aknfle shot will be fired.

    Reply
    • stranger

      After the humiliating 24h ultimatum it will be very difficult for them to negotiate without loosing the face. After Turkey had. stood by Qatar and after Pakistan was going to send their fighters there too, the position of Qatar is not so hopeless. Qatar is being pushed closer to Iran, but that is exactly what it was accused for. The unexpected turn in this game is Turkish support. So we may expect some thrilling show.

      Reply
  4. stranger

    “But also US/Israel/Saudi trio would not want GCC to disintegrate (Oman and Kuwait did not join Saudi side in this dispute) or Qatar to embrace Iran/Russia and kick out USAF from its bases in Qatar. ”
    I’ve read the opinion that the US/Israel/Saudi coalition is looking forward to the redivision of Syria after ISIS is defeated or at least suppressed to underground. Assad/Iran/Russia controls a great deal of Syria, the other great deal is under US/Kurds/Coalition, a small part was bit by Turks, and when Isis is expelled they are going to meet somewhere in between “at Elba” and the question would be who is going to control Syria. So the coalition is trying to unite the Sunni gulf countries against Iran. Qatar belongs to the Sunni gulf countries, but as a small country which earns a lot of money and depends on its gas and other projects, competing btw with US gas in EU, is not interested into breaking up with anybody including Iran. So the ultimatum is seen as a demonstrative punishment of the dared to divert from the coalitions course including not the least against Shee Iran. Because Qatar does support Muslim Brothers and probably is behind terroristic groups, but isn’t Saudi behind even more terror, aren’t Sunnis behind radical Wahhabism around the globe? That may explain why US has bombed pro Assad forces already four time when they tried to approach the Iraq border crossing at Tanafa and why this scandal around Qatar appeared only now. But just an opinion which I found curious. And they need to defeat ISIS first before dividing the “loot”.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

TRUST IN JOURNALISM - IMPRESS