Food as a weapon? The geopolitics of food and the Qatar–Gulf rift
This article, in the Security Dialogue, puts the concept of ‘food as a weapon’ in historical and regional perspective in the Arabian Peninsula through the lens of critical geopolitics, tracing the securitizing discourses about food security and their intertwining with narratives about territorial sovereignty, nationalism, and essentialist understandings of geography to explain the causes and effects of the food embargo in the ongoing Qatar–Gulf rift. On 4 June 2017, Qatar was suddenly put under an embargo by its regional neighbors – an effort spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who cut off most of its existing land, sea, and air traffic routes. With no domestic agriculture to speak of, Qatar’s external logistics networks are essential for maintaining its food supply. The country’s 2.6 million residents, many of whom flooded the grocery stores, were understandably concerned about their ability to secure food when news about the embargo broke. Eventually, new food supply chains were established, primarily with the assistance of partners in Iran and Turkey. The ongoing rift between Qatar and its neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula, manifested only in part by this effort to undermine the country’s material supply networks raises a number of questions about an old idea: that of food as a ‘weapon’.