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Tillerson Scrambles to Undo Trump’s Qatar Blunder

Secretary Tillerson made a statement [1] earlier today calling on the Saudis and their allies to ease the blockade on Qatar. The emphasis on de-escalation and resolving the dispute was appropriate, but this should have been the administration’s unified position all along. Of course, the crisis might have been avoided or more easily resolved if the administration had not given the Saudis and their allies the impression that Washington would support them no matter what they did. It is not tenable to tell clients that they won’t face any lectures or pressure from Washington and then expect them to respond constructively to a public rebuke. Having given the Saudis et al. the greenest of green lights beforehand, the Trump administration now appears unprepared and out of their depth when they try to backtrack.

Because of Trump’s ill-informed and irresponsible intervention [2] in the crisis earlier this week, the leaders of the governments imposing the blockade may assume that the president’s endorsement of their actions counts for more than Tillerson’s statement. The administration’s ongoing foreign policy dysfunction and Trump’s tendency to make arbitrary decisions that cut his top officials out of the loop make it difficult for the latter to be taken seriously as credible spokesmen for American positions. When there are wide public differences between what U.S. officials say the U.S. position is and what the president says it is, other governments can take advantage of the confusion created by that disagreement to ignore statements from Washington they don’t like. The lack of coordination between the president and his foreign policy team is a serious and continuing problem, and in a crisis like this it limits U.S. influence and makes our government’s protests ring hollow.

Update: Naturally, it didn’t take Trump long to undermine [3] Tillerson’s attempt to de-escalate the crisis:



6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Tillerson Scrambles to Undo Trump’s Qatar Blunder"

#1 Comment By Kevin On June 9, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

I wonder what Rod’s commenters who assured us the tweets were genius strategy have to say …

#2 Comment By Kevin On June 9, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

But more seriously as Daniel points out , the real question is why would the Saudis take Tillerson serioisly when they could always make a phone call to Jarred or to his boss and maybe dance another ten billion investment in American infrastructure or something.

#3 Comment By Centralist On June 9, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

I think what they will say is:

“Trump is playing 3D Chess, he sees all the moves”

Not the fact he is general uninformed, ignorant of say locations of US bases in our largest hot spot, arrogant to art form, and incurious about anything outside of himself and his family.

#4 Comment By Peter Jones On June 9, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

This anti-Qatar plot was clearly calculated and planned well before the threat issued in the last few days. If you go back to the period 20-25 Apr, you well see a spate of opinion pieces in the US media asserting that Qatar has to be brought under control. There are examples in Fortune Mag and the NY Post. Mattis’s visit to Qatar at that time included some verbiage that in retrospect looks like a warning to Qatar of problems ahead.

Trump’s policies in the Middle East look increasingly as though there are simply scripted for him at AIPAC, run by Kushner, and then presented to the Pres as a menu of draft tweets from which he can choose.


#5 Comment By Kevin On June 10, 2017 @ 12:32 am

“Trump’s policies in the Middle East look increasingly as though there are simply scripted for him at AIPAC, run by Kushner, and then presented to the Pres as a menu of draft tweets from which he can choose.”

Sorry to harsh your mellow, but Israel actually has a decent working relationship with Qatar (basically, it finds its useful to have Qatar bankroll Hammas, because it prefers Hammas to total anarchy in Gaza.)

#6 Comment By sean mcauliffe On June 12, 2017 @ 11:22 am

It is getting easier and easier to make intelligent comments on Trump’s behavior.

“He’s an effin moron” works 99% of the time.
Sad. Very sad.