Patrick Cockburn points to Trump’s embrace of the Saudis last month as a major factor in creating the Qatar crisis:
Much more seriously, Mr Trump’s unqualified support for the Sunni monarchies and autocrats during his two-day visit to Riyadh emboldened the kingdom to start a second and, it hopes, final round in its confrontation with Qatar. Mr Trump may not have intended to touch off this latest crisis when he aggressively and inaccurately demonised Iran and by implication the Shia as the source of all terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. But his words were interpreted by the Saudis as enabling them to move against Qatar though it is home to a major US base.
Trump’s comments earlier today are sure to be received by the Saudis and their allies as confirmation that they did not misunderstand his intentions during his visit. The governments now blockading Qatar have no reason to fear damaging relations with the U.S., and far from worrying about criticism from Washington they are liable to be praised by the president for their punitive actions. Trump has made sure that the U.S. is now closely identified with the governments that precipitated this crisis, and insofar as the U.S. continues to support them it will partly “own” the outcome. Meanwhile, there are already signs that the attempt to isolate and punish Qatar may be backfiring by giving Iran an opening that they didn’t have before.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, throwing U.S. support behind yet another ill-advised and dangerous Saudi-led policy in the region is bad for U.S. interests and for the wider region. No Americans are made more secure by encouraging the Saudis and others to bully a smaller neighbor, and no U.S. interest is advanced by trying to force yet another country into submission to Riyadh. The ongoing disaster in Yemen brought on in large part by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led intervention should be proof enough that indulging the Saudis in their regional ambitions leads to terrible outcomes for the people in the affected countries and for U.S. security interests in those countries. The crisis over Qatar may be on a smaller scale, but taking sides in this dispute is deeply misguided and certainly has nothing to do with putting American interests first.
Trump’s full embrace of the Saudis has just encouraged them to be more aggressive and irresponsible, which is what usually happens when the U.S. indulges its reckless clients.