The Iran Obsession and Qatar
Gen. Charles Wald (Ret.) wants the U.S. to deliver an absurd ultimatum to Qatar just like the Saudi-led bloc did two years ago:
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut formal relations with Qatar because they recognized that their Gulf neighbor must make the choice that I am urging the U.S. to make as well. We should be as clear-eyed in our approach to the region.
Specifically, Wald is calling for the U.S. to give Qatar the choice between losing Al Udeid air base or cutting off their relations with Iran. This is an extremely foolish proposal, and the U.S. should ignore it. Trying to dictate Qatar’s foreign policy to them under duress was where the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt went wrong. Qatar didn’t make any concessions, and instead they deepened their ties with Iran and Turkey in defiance of the bloc’s demands. Two years later, the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has completely failed, and Qatar is arguably in a better position than it was before. If the U.S. tried to force their hand over their relations with Iran, one of the countries that helped them withstand the blockade, the U.S. would be rebuffed and the attempt at coercion would sour the relationship. There is nothing “clear-eyed” about allowing the Iran obsession to poison every other relationship that the U.S. has.
The demand itself is a misguided one. Why should we want Qatar to cut all ties with Iran? There are relatively few governments that can act as intermediaries between our two governments. Since we have no direct communications with Tehran, our government can benefit from having a government with closer ties to Iran in our orbit. The more important point is that Qatar’s relations with its neighbors are their business, and our government should not be telling them how to conduct their foreign relations.
Wald seems to be laboring under the delusion that Qatar has quit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) when it is the Saudi-led blockade that shattered the organization and made it useless. Instead of demanding the Qatar sever ties with one of its neighbors, the U.S. should be encouraging the four members of the absurdly-named “Anti-Terror Quartet” to restore ties with Qatar. Our lack of normal relations with Iran is a hindrance to advancing U.S. interests and resolving disputes, and pushing Qatar to cut off their ties just makes the problem worse.