Trump is Making the Diplomatic Crisis With Qatar Even Worse Than it Never Had to Be
Trump’s Clumsy Handling of Qatar creating chaos in the Gulf
As the Gulf countries try to deal with a rapidly escalating crisis, President Trump worsened things in a matter of minutes by bluntly accusing Qatar of funding terrorism. The small Gulf country asked the U.S. through its ambassador to intervene believing in America’s ability to calm down the waters; but the result was not what was expected. In the first news conference given since Comey’s declaration, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Qatar of standing behind terrorist organizations saying
“The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding … and its extremist ideology… So we had a decision to make: do we take the easy road, or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism. The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, the UAE and Egypt have all accused Qatar of standing behind terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda before (an accusation that Qatar has strongly opposed). However, Trump’s comment could be one of the most damaging since Monday when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies decided to break diplomatic relations with Qatar and began a series of economic blockages.
The accusations made by Trump further damage the already complicated relations between the U.S. and the tiny Gulf country, which are nevertheless crucial for it being a close military partner to America. The Middle Eastern nation is host to the one of the Pentagon’s largest military bases in the region, essential for the fight against ISIS and the U.S. operations in Iraq. As explained by The Guardian
“More than 11,000 US and coalition forces are at al-Udeid air base outside Doha, which is the centre for US air operations over Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.”
Trump’s comments were also far from those by U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who surprisingly showed more restraint, criticised the blockage imposed on Qatar as an obstacle to the fight against ISIS and as a possible cause of terrible humanitarian consequences. This contrast also strengthens the already existing fear of a lack of a clear U.S. foreign agenda. As Ben Rhodes said
“There’s no explanation for why he’s (Trump’s) doing what he’s doing. There’s a short-term risk of increased danger to our national security objectives, and then there’s a longer term risk of escalating conflicts on many fronts. In the Middle East, it’s always a mistake to think that things can’t get worse.”
Trump’s loose words put at risk counter-terrorism efforts and the safety of U.S. troops in the region, while contributing to the growing tension with Iran. In addition, his accusations give the green light to a more aggressive Saudi-led campaign, in spite of the fact that Saudi Arabia and its allies have also been linked to funding, supporting, and hosting terrorist organizations. But while the Saudi ally and its friends are looking forward to stop the growth of political Islam and a growing relation with Iran, Donald Trump just risked an important alliance and decades of progress in trying to be liked.
Featured image via CNN screengrab
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