The latest in a series of moves by President Trump that appeared to throw a wrench into State Department efforts to calm the Qatar blockade situation saw him telling the Saudi King today that the US could well just abandon their largest military base in the Middle East, the al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar.
Officials from the blockading states have previously suggested that the US ought to consider finding an alternative to the Qatar base, as State and Pentagon officials express concern the protracted blockade could start impacting US wars in the region, which are run out of the base.
This is a hugely important base for the US, and that’s a big part of why State Department officials have been so desperate to try to resolve the dispute. President Trump, however, has treated this base with relative ambivalence, and in his talk with King Salman today said he was confident other countries in the region would “gladly” build the US a replacement base if they abandoned Qatar.
Trump may be over-optimistic in that regard, particularly if after Qatar spent decades cultivating close ties with the US he just cuts them loose at the first sign of mild inconvenience. Hosting a US base is historically seen as an easy way to get US support, and if that’s no longer the case there may not be so many willing to host a new one.