Why Key Arabs States Isolated Qatar — And What The US Has To Do With It
The country of Qatar, a small but pivotal Persian Gulf energy supplier and U.S. security partner, is currently dealing with the biggest diplomatic breakdown to hit the region in years. Eight Arab nations have severed ties with the country over what they say is Qatar’s reported support for terrorist groups and hostile states.
The governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates announced they would withdraw their diplomatic envoys from Qatar and eject Qatari officials from their lands. Saudi Arabia also said Qatari troops would be pulled from the ongoing war in Yemen. Qatar's only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia, has been closed. State airline Qatari Airways has been denied access to Saudi and Egyptian airspace, effectively cutting off the small nation from the region by air, sea, and land.
The ongoing tensions between Qatar, who will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and its neighbors has many layers and no single direct cause. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both key U.S. allies in the region, both hosting massive U.S. air bases necessary for the fight against ISIS, but Saudis are not thrilled with Qatar sharing the North Field with its rival Iran.
The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a council made up of several of the states severing diplomatic ties, have also alleged that Qatar has used its platform on the state-owned Al-Jazeera Network to give favorable coverage to Islamic extremist groups and fund these group's violent attempts at regime change.
President Donald Trump, always eager to get his opinions out, made comments on Twitter appearing to take one U.S. ally's side over another:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
Yet again, comments made by the President contradict his official mouthpiece in Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In a Tuesday press briefing, Spicer said that "The U.S. still wants to see this issue de-escalated and resolved immediately, in keeping with the principles that the president laid out in terms of defeating terror financing and extremism."
There has been no immediate word from the Pentagon or Washington on how, if at all, this crisis will affect over 11,000 active service members in the region and the sizable amount of air traffic coming in and out of Qatar, which also plays regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command.