Tuesday, June 6, 2017

President Trump Uses Twitter to Throw a Vital Ally Under the Bus

In my last post, I lamented that some important developments were getting lost because of our tendency to discuss the latest bright shiny object brought into the room by President Trump.  My last post was on the French elections.  I next planned to discuss the actions taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt and other Middle East governments against Qatar.  Little did I know that the next bright shiny object that Trump would tweet into the room would be Qatar.

By way of background, earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE (together with some others) all announced that they were ending diplomatic relations with Qatar, and they blocked all  land and air access to Qatar.  Given that Qatar's only land border is with Saudi Arabia, and it imports almost all of its food, this is a big deal.   The reasons of the move are complicated.  Qatar has been an irritant to the other Gulf monarchies because of its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its hosting of Al Jazerra.  The U.S. also has had its own issues with Qatar, but it is an important ally in the region.  Perhaps most critically, it hosts Al Udeid Air Force Base, which is probably the most important U.S. Air Force base in the region.

Truth be told, none of the Middle East monarchies are perfect allies.  Saudi Arabia adopts a very hardline conservative form of Islam that they have actively (and sadly effectively) promoted in many countries. All of these countries have serious human rights issues. .Yet, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are vital to the U.S.  interests in the region.  The only reason the U.S. is able to project power in the region at all is because of our numerous bases in these countries.

Given this background, an Administration looking out for U.S. interests would be taking steps to mediate the dispute, and taking steps to find a solution to the problems that have brought us to where we are today.  Indeed, I strongly suspect that this is exactly what Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson have been trying to do over the past few days.  Our interests are assuredly not advanced by picking sides in a despite between important allies over largely regional issues. Throwing an ally under the bus for any reason rarely works out for the U.S.

Sadly, that is not what President Trump decided to do.  In a series of tweets this morning, President Trump has taken sides in this dispute and has not merely supported the actions against Qatar, but has even taken credit for them. I would be shocked if Trump's senior national security advisers were consulted by the President.  Indeed, I suspect that they are horrified.

In my experience, Qatar is rather sensitive (one would say prickly) about Al Udeid Air Force Base.  I would not be surprised to see significant problems for the United States because of this morning's tweets.

UPDATE:  Some other reactions

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post , there is just a potential missing link here . This is because , it is not quite understood , why would Trump , defy that much Qatar . One good and common explanation , is of course , the fight against terror ( they allegedly , had supported and funded the IS and others ) yet , Saudi Arabia also is blamed for it .

    Another good reason , is the relative close ties , between Iran and Qatar. Maybe for Trump , that is a game changer . The fear and hostility of Saudi Arabia towards Iran , is complete and undeniable , yet , not that one of Qatar , while that one of Trump towards Iran , surly ….

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