Stian Overdahl analyzes the Qatar crisis, and notes the effect of the Trump administration’s embrace of the Saudis and their allies in Riyadh:
The real estate developer turned president was wowed by the opulence of the royal palaces and seduced by the kingly reception and honours bestowed on him by the canny Saudis. His speech also gave broad support to the Sunni Arab states, ignoring human rights concerns in countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia and marshalling them into a broad coalition against Islamic terrorism and Iran.
Yet what Saudi Arabia and the UAE saw was an opportunity to settle old grievances with Qatar, with the Trump administration still trying to get its footing and understand the variation of domestic politics and foreign policy among the GCC states. “You could say Donald Trump was played by the Emiratis and the Saudis,” [bold mine-DL] says Karen Young, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW). “They saw an opening and an opportunity to push forward in foreign policy directives that they held anyway, and they went for it.”
The Qatar crisis has been instructive in showing how uncritical backing for clients makes them become more aggressive and reckless. Showering them with praise and offering even more weapons and support than Obama didn’t make these states act more in line with U.S. interests. On the contrary, Trump’s indulgent attitude signaled to them that there was virtually nothing they could do that would provoke resistance from Washington, and they treated his speech as an invitation to do what they liked even though it directly undermined other U.S. policies. Since taking office, Trump has been testing the idea that “no daylight” with clients and allies produces better outcomes. The Qatar crisis is just the latest piece of evidence that this approach yields nothing but more instability and irresponsible client behavior along with more headaches for the U.S.