A Middle East Mystery: Why Is Trump Backing Saudi Hypocrisy on Qatar?

The world was surprised last month when, rather suddenly and unexpectedly, Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf states, plus Egypt, severed diplomatic relations and imposed a total economic embargo on the tiny nation of Qatar.

President Trump, with typical tactlessness, jumped on Twitter to proclaim this a good thing, and to take credit for it. Saudi claims of the tiny peninsular nation supporting terrorism appear to trumped up. Coming from the kleptocratic gang of Islamists that run the world’s worst totalitarian theocracy, it was a pretty hollow accusation.

The 13-point demands issued by the Saudi-led alliance to Qatar put forth outrageous terms that no sovereign nation would accept.  Among the demands, was that Qatar sever its increasingly friendly diplomatic relations with Iran, and close the globally famous al-Jazeera state-owned TV station that is a popular news outlet in the region.

Underlying the diplomatic and economic blockade includes prohibiting Qatari airlines from flying over Saudi airspace, an effort by the Saudi government to make Qatar into puppet state. Even the possibility of a military invasion hangs in the air: A Saudi-led emulation of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, wishes to impose Saudi rule as a regional hegemony over the other Gulf states. Given the atrocious human rights record of the Saudis, particularly contrasted with the relative liberalism of the Qatari regime, this is not an aspiration the United States and our President should support.

In yet another sign of the “adults in the room” dynamic within the administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the Saudi demands as unreasonable, in spite of being contradicted by his boss on Twitter. Tillerson is working with Kuwait as the self-appointed intermediary in the crisis.

Based on the facts of the crisis, though, it’s difficult to see why the United States should not side openly with Qatar, a major U.S. ally that hosts the largest U.S. military base in the region. If there is any nation that has the leverage to demand Saudi Arabia end its aggression, it’s the United States. Refusing to do so, while continuing to funnel arms and subsidies to the Saudi regime, amounts to complicity in what is little more than an act of international bullying.

(Photo of Doha, Qatar by Shahid Siddiqi used with permission.)


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