Both states desire to impose their will on neighboring Qatar, whose independent foreign policy irritates entitled elites not used to criticism let alone opposition. But so far the two nations' efforts have done little more than strengthen Qatar's independence and expose their own hypocrisy. Washington should continue to mediate, while making clear that the fault mostly lies with the aggressive and repressive Saudi-Emirati axis.
In June Abu Dhabi and Riyadh imposed a quasi-blockade on the small sheikdom of Qatar and demanded that it accept the status of vassal. They were joined by two countries which previously sold their sovereignty: Egypt, whose unpopular al-Sisi dictatorship was on both the Saudi and Emirati payrolls, and Bahrain, whose Sunni monarch crushed democracy protests by the Shia majority with the help of Saudi troops. (The Maldives and one of Libya's contending "governments" also joined in, while Kuwait and Oman remained neutral.) UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented 13 "non-negotiable" demands, which included accepting foreign oversight of Doha's policies.
In the Middle East, an artifact of geography, the existence of vast pools of oil and natural gas, enriched otherwise unimportant nations ruled by small, sheltered families. "There are no clean hands here," observed one unidentified State Department official. In dispute is support for terrorism, status of human rights, and relations with Iran.