Associated Press – DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Natural gas built the high-rises of Qatar’s capital, put the Al-Jazeera satellite news network on the air and a fleet of passengers jets for its state carrier in the sky. Now, it may be what protects Qatar as it is in the center of the worst diplomatic crisis to strike the Gulf in decades.
As the world’s biggest exporter of liquid natural gas, Qatar’s supplies keep homes warm in the British winter, fuel Asian markets and even power the electrical grid of the United Arab Emirates, one of the main countries that has cut ties to the energy-rich nation.
So far, its supplies have continued uninterrupted since the diplomatic dispute began last week. Natural gas markets have yet to respond to the rift and prices have remained stable. But Qatar wields a potential economic weapon if the crisis escalates and countries around the world that depend on its supply may find themselves needing to side with the tiny nation that is home to a major U.S. military installation.
“If Qatari gas exports were to be blocked, countries like Britain, Japan, South Korea and China would have an energy crisis and would have to scramble to get their energy elsewhere,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Seattle-based research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University who has extensively studied Qatar.
“For any small country, particularly a small country in the Gulf surrounded by much larger and potentially expansionary powers, having international partnerships is a key tool of your external security,” he said. “I think that may be what the Qataris are banking on right now.”
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