Qatar, more formally referred to as the State of Qatar, is a nation located on the western edge of the Asia. The country is relatively small in size, spanning an area of roughly 4,471 square miles, making it the 158th largest country in the world. Qatar is situated on the Qatar Peninsula, which is on the northeastern coast of the larger Arabian Peninsula. Politically, Qatar has been referred as a either a constitutional monarchy or an absolute monarchy. The country’s land border is shared with Saudi Arabia to the south, while the remainder of Qatar is surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Additionally, an arm of the Persian Gulf also separates Qatar from Bahrain. Since Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868, the country has been ruled by the house of Thani. In 2017, Qatar had a population of 2.6 million people, 313,000 of which were citizens while the remaining 2.3 million were expatriates.
Development of Qatar's Borders
The long history of human habitation in Qatar has played a significant role in shaping its borders. One of the most influential population groups in Qatar's history were the Usfurids, who had control of the region for much of the 13th century. Qatar's strategic location and the presence of high-quality pearls made the area attractive, and the Portuguese eventually became the first European colonists to develop interest in the region. The territory fell under control of the Portuguese by 1521, but they were later expelled by the combined forces of the British and Dutch. Qatar would later become controlled by the British until it gained independence in 1971. Before the British granted the Qatari people their independence, the Qatari government proposed that several other Arab states join with it to create the Federation of Arab Emirates. Despite the efforts of several regional leaders, the federation was disbanded, and Qatar became an independent nation with distinct land borders.
Saudi Arabia-Qatar Border
Qatar's only land border is shared with Saudi Arabia, which approximately 54 miles long. One of the major towns located on the Qatari side of the border is Abu Samra, which had the distinction of being the only land border crossing between Qatar and Saudi Arabia until the Qatari government closed it in 2017. There are several towns located on the Saudi side of the border, the most prominent being Al Salwa and Harad. The Gulf of Salwah also separates Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Historical Border Dispute Between Qatar and Saudi Arabia
During the 19th century, Qatar and what would eventually become the modern-day nations of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had a dispute over the Khawr al Udayd region. The conflict stemmed from the fact that Khawr al Udayd was a haven for pirates. One of the most well-known pirates to settle in the region was Jasim bin Jabir, who later settled in the region. The British, whose ships were the primary target of pirates, sent troops to order the Qatari leaders to stop supporting the pirates. Attempts by the British and Abu Dhabi troops to invade the region to curb the piracy resulted in a war against the Qatari troops. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were also engaged in a dispute over the Khawr al Udayd region during the 20th century. The dispute was caused by the fact that both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wanted the area to serve as part of its border with Qatar. In 1974, it was determined that Khawr al Udayd would border Saudi Arabia, but the issue reemerged again in 2005.
In 2017, the Saudi Arabian government proposed the construction of the Salwa Canal, a 43-mile long waterway that would convert Qatar into an island nation. The Saudi Arabian government attempted to justify the project by claiming it would increase tourism and trade in the area. Reports in Saudi Arabian media indicated that the government hoped the project could be completed in one year. However, another report suggested construction of the canal would be detrimental to the Qatari economy.
Political Cooperation Between Saudi Arabia and Qatar
The political relationship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar was generally positive up until the past few decades, and during much of the 20th century the government of Qatar followed Saudi Arabia's lead on many issues related to foreign policy and diplomacy. The cooperation between the two nations resulted in the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar's ties to Saudi Arabia are believed to have influenced the country's decision to become involved in certain initiatives, such as joining Saudi Arabia's 2011 intervention in Bahrain, as well as Saudi Arabia's 2015 intervention in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia's Role in Internal Qatari Politics
Due to the historically close ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, several Qatari dissidents fled to Saudi Arabia during the 20th century. During this period, it was also common for the Qatari government to exile its most prominent and influential critics to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian government would then negotiate a deal between the critics and the Qatari government.
Breakdown in the Relationship Between Saudi Arabia and Qatar
Many experts believe that a breakdown in the relationship between the two nations can be traced to 1995, when Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani took control of Qatar. Emir Hamad believed that it would be in Qatar's best interests to distance itself from the control of Saudi Arabia. Emir Hamad took certain actions that angered Saudi Arabia, such as establishing the Al Jazeera broadcasting network and establishing formal ties with Israel and Iran.
Qatar Diplomatic Crisis
The political tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia culminated in the 2017 diplomatic crisis. Saudi Arabia, along with several of its allies such as Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, and Mauritania, placed Qatar under an embargo. Some of the reasons cited by Saudi Arabia and its allies included the establishment of ties between Qatar and Iran, as well as what they believed to be Qatar's support for terrorist activities.
Border Security in Qatar
The government of Qatar has invested heavily in safeguarding its borders, in part due to the tension with the Saudi Arabian government. The border security system used by the Qatari government was provided by Airbus Defence and Space.
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