NPR logo Episode 778: What the Falcon's Up With Qatar?

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Episode 778: What the Falcon's Up With Qatar?

President Trump attends the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, poses with the Saudi and Egyptian leaders, and touches a glowing orb during his May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Press Agency/AP hide caption

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Saudi Press Agency/AP

President Trump attends the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, poses with the Saudi and Egyptian leaders, and touches a glowing orb during his May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Press Agency/AP

Eighty years ago, Qatar's primary industry was pearl-diving. Today, the tiny Persian Gulf nation is the richest country in the world per capita. It's also in a lot of trouble.

Saudi Arabia and several nearby countries have blockaded tiny Qatar, cut off all trade, closed the border. It seemed like overnight, Qatar went from being on top of the world to being a regional pariah.

So we wondered: What's going on?

We delve into the region's politics, economics, and culture to trace the roots of the crisis. The tensions between Qatar and its neighbors have been simmering for years. It's a bit like a family drama, little brother poking a thumb in the eye of a big brother. Except these brothers also control a tremendous amount of the world's energy resources and two important U.S. military bases.

Normally, when these 'brother monarchies' might squabble, other countries, like the U.S. might intervene and smooth things over. But this time, that's not happening.

On today's show, a tale of outsize ambition, kidnapped royalty, the explanation behind the Saudi Arabian orb, and a giant air conditioner that fueled years of growth.

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