For the last three years, there has been great tension between Qatar and the rest of the Gulf States (the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain), particularly Saudi Arabia. A blockade by land, sea and air has been imposed on the small Gulf nation, which has been less than ideal for Qatar’s economic situation. On Tuesday, however, an agreement was reached between the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, that allowed a thawing of diplomatic relations between the nations.
The blockade on Qatar was first put in place by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE around three and a half years ago, insisting that Qatar accept their 13 demands. The most notable demands of these included the distancing of Qatar from Iran diplomatically, the withdrawal of support from alleged terrorist groups and the closing of the independent news outlet Al-Jazeera, which is often critical of the Saudi government. Qatar rejected these demands.
This all comes before a major meeting in early January of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic union of the Gulf States, and the first one that Qatar has attended since the embargo began. This meeting will potentially lead to a more united and more effective GCC, that will most likely discuss how to deal with Iran, their proclaimed mutual enemy, better.
However, this lifting of the embargo against Qatar should not be seen as the beginning of a friendship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but merely as a thawing of relations. Al-Jazeera will still write articles critical of the Saudi regime, and Qatar will still have diplomatic ties to Iran. The two nations will still be opponents, just slightly less so.
This thawing of relations will also have impacts on the United States. It is worth noting that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are close allies of the United States. The US purchases significant amounts of oil from both nations. The US also has major military installations in both nations that have been historically important during recent Middle Eastern conflicts.
The conflict between these two US allies has caused issues for the US, due to the fact that if the US sided with one nation over another they ran the risk of alienating one of their allies. Jared Kushner has taken much of the credit for what he claims is a diplomatic victory for the US, although many critics say that that credit is stolen from Sheikh Sabah of Kuwait, who in reality did most of the mediation.