The Saudi-led bloc isn’t backing down from its campaign to punish Qatar:
The four Arab states leading a boycott of Qatar say it will continue despite a deal between Washington and Doha to combat the financing of terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said the deal brokered by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday was “not enough”.
The Saudis and their allies have painted themselves into a corner with the extreme measures they have used against Qatar and the excessive, unrealistic demands they made last month. Even though Tillerson secured a modest agreement that might have allowed the bloc to save face, it was never going to be enough for the governments that only weeks ago insisted on the small country’s near-total capitulation. They can’t give up on the blockade without appearing incompetent and weak, but their conditions for ending the blockade are so absurd that Qatar will never agree to them. The crisis seems likely to drag on for a long time unless the U.S. can find a way to pressure its reckless clients into acknowledging failure and accepting a compromise.
The U.S. response to the crisis has been incoherent from the start, and that has made the administration’s belated attempts at mediation mostly ineffective. The Saudi-led bloc assumed that they had a green light from the president, and they continue to believe that they have the White House’s backing, and as long as they think they can rely on that support they will pay no attention to what Tillerson says. Unless the blockading states believe that they are risking support from Washington by persisting in their current course, they will cling to the illusion that they can compel Qatar’s submission. If the U.S. doesn’t find a way to resolve the crisis in the near future, there is a danger that the Saudi-led bloc could try to “win” through escalation. The quickest way for the U.S. to resolve this feud is to make clear to these four client states that they are jeopardizing their relationships with the U.S. if they don’t stop. Since Trump has effusively praised both Salman and Sisi, that isn’t likely to happen.