One of the world’s richest, tiniest countries is about to run out of food

Middle Eastern food fight.
Middle Eastern food fight.
Image: Reuters/Fadi Al-Assaad
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Wealthy residents in Qatar are swarming local supermarkets in fear of a sudden food shortage sparked by a dramatic shift in Middle East power.

Three of Qatar’s powerful neighbors—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain—have cut diplomatic ties with the country, accusing it of funding Islamic militants. The three states are giving Qatari residents two weeks to return to Qatar and have shut down transportation ties with the country, including airline flights to and from there, according to Reuters.

In about 50 years, Qatar has transformed from a small fishing village into an oil-rich country whose citizens are ranked among the wealthiest in the world. But the diplomatic crisis Qatar faces today shows how money has its own limitations. Qatar depends on its neighbors for most of the food that it eats, which typically comes arrives by truck from places such as Saudi Arabia.

Those trucks are now lining up along the border, forbidden from entering the country, according to Bloomberg. That has created something of a panic in Qatar, where residents are flooding into supermarkets to scoop up whatever food they can in case the diplomatic situation winds up being a drawn-out affair.

No friend of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s government told Bloomberg it was preparing to export food by sea to Qatar—a trip across the Persian Gulf that takes about 12 hours. Jean-Marc Rickli, a foreign affairs expert at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told Reuters that the changes in power among Gulf states are a response to the Trump presidency, which is opposed to Iran and political Islam. The move occurs just a couple weeks after Trump made his first overseas trip to the Middle East, in which he spent time in Saudi Arabia, among other places. The cut-off is a double-edged sword for the United States, which has a large military base in Qatar—a chess piece in evolving Middle East power shifts.