Friday, February 2, 2018

America Wins the Gulf Crisis

Krishnadev Calamur,

uncaptioned image from article

Qatar's isolation means Washington gets concessions.


Tuesday [January 30]wasn’t a good day for the Arab states that imposed an embargo on Qatar last summer. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others had spent nearly the past eight months trying to persuade the world of Qatar’s perfidy, its alleged support of terrorist groups, and its interference in their internal affairs. Instead, they found senior Qatari officials at a strategic dialogue at the U.S. State Department with the American secretaries of state and defense.

In those eight months, Qatar relied on exactly the kind of diplomacy its neighbors loathe: It drew closer to Iran and Turkey, deepened its economic and defense relations with Russia, and embarked on a robust campaign of public diplomacy with the Trump administration. The U.S. had sent mixed signals about whom it supported in the Gulf crisis. Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged all sides to work out their differences, President Trump tweeted that Qatar was supporting terrorism.

What changed with the U.S. position compared to when the crisis started, said Simon Henderson, the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute, is that the “White House has essentially become silent on it.” Trump stopped accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. “[A]nd the view of the State and the Pentagon”—that Qatar is a valuable counterterrorism partner and that the crisis should be resolved through negotiations—“has prevailed.” ...

He added: “The only actual indication of a change in White House position came a couple of weeks ago when Trump had a telephone conversation with Emir Tamim of Qatar. ... The statement issued by the White House was a very friendly one.”

The readout of that call noted that Trump thanked the emir for “Qatari action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms.” Ultimately, Qatar emerged stronger Tuesday after the strategic dialogue. Among the agreements they signed, the U.S. “expressed its readiness to work jointly with Qatar to deter and confront an external threat to Qatar’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.”...

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