The Saudi Arabia-led regional split with Qatar is wildly inconvenient, not just for Qatar, but for the United States. America’s largest military base in the region is in Qatar, and the Pentagon and the State Department have both made clear they support Qatar, and expect this incident to blow over pretty quickly.
Apparently nobody told President Trump, however, as in his latest series of Twitter screeds he not only cheered the Saudi move against Qatar, but personally took credit for the incident, which again is wildly inconvenient to America’s Middle East policy.
Trump insisted that his push against “radical ideology” had caused everyone to turn on Qatar, saying it meant his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off.” He even went on to insist that the move against Qatar was “the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism.”
Trump’s comments suggest a tacit endorsement of the narrative that Qatar is in some way supporting Iran and ISIS both, centered on their state media taking a position contrary to the Saudi royal family’s narrative. The reality is that the hostility to Qatar is long-standing, and mostly centered on Qatar’s support for democratic reform during the Arab Spring.
While President Trump personally has a great relationship with Egypt’s military ruler, who ousted the democratically elected government, accepting the notion that Qatar’s support for democracy amounts to adding to the “horror of terrorism” is a troubling position for a US president to take.
Perhaps an even bigger problem in the near-term than the ideological implications of this position, however, is that the US relationship with Qatar is an important part of their regional policy, and has been for many years. President Trump says nothing to suggest he is even aware of that fact, and it’s virtually unheard of for the US to speak ill of any country that’s hosting a US military base of any import.