With U.S. President Donald Trump taking credit for the Arab world’s move to isolate Qatar, the U.S. may be destroying the small country militarily.
Qatar – one of the richest countries in the world – thrust itself into the global spotlight on Monday morning, when six biggest Arab powers cut ties from the 2.5-million populated country over its alleged ties to terrorism.
Just hours after six Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives – severed diplomatic ties from Qatar, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of more than $1.4 billion worth of military training and equipment for Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s biggest enemy in the region and the driving force behind the Qatari diplomatic crisis.
The $1.4 billion military deal is part of a staggering $110 billion arms deal President Trump signed with Saudis during his Middle East trip two weeks ago. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, which became his first foreign trip as U.S. President, could mark the beginning of a possible demise of Qatar, which finds itself isolated in the Middle East after its neighbors cut off land, air and sea links to and from Qatar.
US indirectly destroying Qatar, but does it help to destroy terrorism?
The U.S. could potentially indirectly destroy Qatar by continuing to approve billion dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia. By sponsoring Saudis militarily, the U.S. is further bolstering Saudi’s superior role in the region, at the same time reducing the role of Qatar. Doha, which is accused of sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, has become a pariah state in the region, with only Iran – and possibly Turkey – willing to come to Qatar’s rescue.
Qatar’s relations with Iran also became the catalyst for the country’s isolation in the region, as Iran is one of key enemies of Saudi Arabia. The U.S., which under President Barack Obama’s administration saw its relations with Saudis go south in the wake of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, is now making wide steps toward becoming a key ally for Saudis. Trump, a vocal critic of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, is reshaping America’s strategy in the Middle East, but there’s one, big BUT.
Qatar hosts the major headquarters of the United States Central Command, an intelligence hub used by the Pentagon in the Middle East and the base where Washington carries out airstrikes against ISIS targets. While Trump was quick to claim credit for Saudi’s isolation of Qatar with hopes that such a move would become “the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” the U.S. taking Saudi’s side in the brewing Qatar-Saudi conflict could potentially cut the Pentagon off using its Qatari military base to actually “end the horror of terrorism” by carrying out devastating airstrikes against terrorist groups in the region.
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…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
…extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
Qatari diplomatic crisis is a double-standard situation
U.S.-Saudi relations as well as the entire Middle East has gone through a dramatic transformation after Trump’s nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe in May. While it’s unclear whether or not Trump was aware of Saudi’s plans to cut ties with Qatar, his visit to Riyadh apparently had a tremendous effect on Saudi Arabia and its neighbors. Even if Trump did not order or approve Saudi’s move to isolate Qatar, his Middle East trip signaled the beginning of major changes in the region.
And apparently Saudi Arabia and its allies thought that change had to start with isolating Qatar due to its alleged ties to terrorism – though Saudi Arabia has for years been accused of sponsoring terrorism and radicalism in the region as well. While one can argue that it’s a double-standard situation, in this case Saudis had more powerful allies than Qatar did.
10,000 US troops to return home from Qatar?
With the help of U.S. sales of weapons and other military equipment, Saudis could significantly boost their role and influence in the region, while Qatar’s role would be shrinking on a pro rata basis. Despite the U.S. sharing deep military ties with Qatari authorities, the Trump administration has apparently came to a conclusion that Saudi Arabia is a more reliable military ally of Washington in its exhausting battle against terrorism despite Saudis allegedly sharing ties to terrorism and allegedly sponsoring radical groups such as ISIS in the region.
Al Udeid base, outside Doha, is home to around 10,000 U.S. troops, and is a vital base in America’s war against ISIS in the region. The U.S. has been a key supplier for most of Saudi Arabia’s military needs in recent years even despite the strained relations in the wake of Obama’s nuclear deal with Saudi foe Iran. Only Iran and Turkey can be considered major allies of Qatar as the small Arab nation finds itself cut from the rest of the Middle East.
Can Qatar survive an enemy in the face of US military?
Ever since Trump assumed office earlier this year, the U.S.-Saudi relations have gone through tremendous changes. Trump has repeatedly praised Saudi King Salman as the “wise” leader and implied that he thinks Saudis are the leaders of the Sunni Muslim world.
The Arab world, led by the Saudis, has for years formed a united front against Qatar over its alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and its allies see as a potential threat to the ruling monarchs in the region. Qataris have also come under fire for their alleged support for ISIS and al-Qaeda though Saudis have been accused of sponsoring the two terrorist groups as well. For years, Qataris have attempted to grow their influence in the region via the Al Jazeera media network, which became one of the most influential news outlets in the Arab world.
It’s yet unclear how U.S.-Qatar relations will be affected by the Qatari diplomatic crisis, but Washington siding with Saudis does not bode well for Qataris. After all, $110 billion worth of U.S. military equipment and the biggest Arab powers joining forces is quite challenging to be up against for a small country such as Qatar.