The Saudi-led bloc that has been blockading Qatar for a month is annoyed that the target of their bullying hasn’t given up yet:
Meeting in Cairo, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates discussed Qatar’s latest response to their 13-point list of demands that include curbing diplomatic ties with Iran, severing links with the Muslim Brotherhood and closing the Al Jazeera television network.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said after the gathering that Qatar’s reply had been “negative,” adding that it “reflects negligence and lack of seriousness in dealing with the origins of the problem as well as unawareness of the gravity of the situation.”
The Saudis and their allies miscalculated badly when they launched this punitive campaign. Far from undermining Qatar’s government and ruling family, isolating and blockading the country has rallied the population behind them. That is usually what happens when outside governments harm the people in a vain attempt to compel their government to do something. Instead of driving a wedge between Qatar and Iran as the other states hoped, it has pushed them together. Meanwhile, it is useful for Iran to have its Gulf neighbors quarreling among themselves. The blockading states want an end to Qatar’s military relationship with Turkey, and that relationship is now becoming stronger than it was before. The bloc underestimated how much resistance they would encounter, they didn’t anticipate that other states would support Qatar, and they put too much faith in coercive tactics to compel changes in the targeted government’s behavior. Just as the Saudis and their allies have done before, they made all the most elementary hard-liner errors and now find themselves forced to choose between a humiliating climbdown and dangerous escalation.
The U.S. should try to find some face-saving compromise that will allow them to end their reckless blockade, and it should refrain from giving the Saudis and their allies any more encouragement than they have already received. Unfortunately, as long as they have the president on their side they aren’t going to yield, and so others in the administration need to make clear to Trump that the longer this drags on the more ineffectual and ridiculous his embrace of the Saudis has made him look.