It's hard to imagine the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates thought it would go this way. Officials from their governments - as well as junior partners Egypt and Bahrain - described the punitive sanctions they collectively slapped on Qatar in early June as an unfortunate but necessary action, aimed at bringing the pesky Qataris to heel. It was as if Qatar, accused by its neighbors of fomenting extremism near and far, was an unruly child who needed to be disciplined.
But in the grown-up world of geopolitics, the Saudi and Emirati-led move against Doha does not seem to be achieving its goals. Rather than isolating Qatar, it has deepened Qatari ties with regional powers Turkey and Iran. Oman and Kuwait, two other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have not joined in. Food supplies and other goods are still flowing into Qatar's docks and airports. And, no matter the White House's mixed messaging, American diplomats appear to be pushing for conciliation and compromise with Qatar rather than seeking Doha's acquiescence to the Saudi and Emirati demands.
"As with their disastrous war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE radically overstated their prospects for success and failed to have a plausible plan B in case things did not go to plan," wrote Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University. "The anti-Qatar quartet seems to have overestimated Qatari fears of isolation from the GCC and their own ability to inflict harm on their neighbor."
A new Washington Post report this week added to the awkwardness facing the blockaders. According to unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, the UAE was behind a controversial late-May hack of Qatari government news and social media sites that helped trigger the crisis. The hack attributed false quotes to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, that had him celebrating Iran as an "Islamic power" and praising Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.