President Donald Trump has decided to step deeper into the quagmire of ancient resentments and pent-up rage between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors, and so, on Wednesday, he called the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, to stress the need for stability in the region and the importance of getting all the countries in the region to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and the promotion of extremist ideology.
Of course, as President Trump is learning every day, tweets have consequences. His Defense Secretary James Mattis probably reminded him after his “Qatar – Look!” tweet about Udeid, the largest US air base in the Middle East, where all the US-led strikes against ISIS originate. There are 8,000 US military personnel on that base:
It’s in Qatar.
Mattis probably also advised the President that Qatar’s response to the attacks by the Saudis et al has been to tighten its relations with Turkey and Iran, because the wealthy emirate grows nothing and has no water of its own, which could make life tough under a Saudi boycott. Mattis could have quoted a Qatari official who just said there was enough food for four weeks in the emirate, before they had to start using their strategic food reserves.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Arab nations (Egypt) cut off relations with Qatar because it supports terrorism. Also, they have been extremely tense about Qatar’s ever-closer relations with Iran, and, of course, they’d like to line up and behead the entire staff of the pesky Al Jazeera network, owned and operated by the emir of Qatar.
So that makes two areas of the Middle East where Pax Americana will soon reign: Israel and the PA and now Qatar and the oil-rich Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
The call to the emir followed Trump’s tweet the day before, that boasted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Which was followed by: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
On Tuesday, Trump called the Saudi King to reiterate the need for unity among the Gulf states, or, as the White house said in a statement: “The president underscored that a united Gulf Cooperation Council is critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability.”
According to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, “the U.S. still wants to see this issue de-escalated and resolved immediately, keeping with the principles that the president laid out in terms of defeating terror financing.” Spicer insisted President Trump and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, had held a “very productive” discussion during the former’s visit to Riyadh, but, according to a source in the Administration who spoke to the NY Times, that conversation had been “noticeably colder than the president’s meetings with other gulf leaders.”
According to a White House statement following the President’s call to the ruler of Qatar, “The president offered to help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary.”