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Trump’s Qatar Blunder

The blockade of Qatar I mentioned [1] yesterday just received a very public stamp of approval from the president:


The official U.S. position before today was that Washington was proposing to mediate the dispute between the different states, and urged all parties to seek de-escalation of the crisis. That was the line coming from both Tillerson [3] and Mattis [4] yesterday. The al-Udeid base [5] in Qatar is important for ongoing anti-ISIS operations, and Mattis insisted that the rift between Qatar and its neighbors would have no effect on the war:

In regards to the implications for the counter-ISIS fight, I am positive there will be no implications coming out of this dramatic situation at all, and I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations…have made to this fight.

Then Trump pops off this morning and effectively endorses what the Saudis, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt have done. That makes it less likely that there will de-escalation. Once again, there appears to have been no consultation with his top Cabinet members before making this statement, and I find it hard to believe that either Tillerson or Mattis thinks that Trump should have said this publicly right now (or at all). The Saudis et al. probably assumed that Trump’s Riyadh speech gave them a tacit green light to do what they wanted, but Trump’s latest remarks must have removed all doubt that they have Washington’s support to blockade and starve [6] Qatar into submission.

The more worrying thing about this statement is that Trump’s opinion of Qatar’s activities seems to be guided entirely by what other leaders told him about their government. Last month in Riyadh, Trump boasted [7] that the U.S.-Qatari relationship was “extremely good” and that he and the emir would be discussing the purchase of “beautiful military equipment” made in the U.S. That was unfortunate in its own way, but it shows how different Trump’s view of Qatar was a few weeks ago. As I said before, Qatar is responsible for supporting jihadist and Islamist groups abroad, but they are hardly the only government in the region that has done so. Judging from Trump’s statement, he is simply taking Qatar’s neighbors at their self-serving word and he is letting himself–and the U.S.–be used to legitimize their vendettas. That bodes ill for this particular crisis, and it also shows how easily regional clients can shape U.S. policies during Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s first statement has stunned many observers with its sheer recklessness and incompetence. Here is a sample of the reactions:




Later this morning, Trump followed up with more tweets:



In addition to being remarkably credulous about the commitments made at Riyadh, Trump is so eager to claim that his visit was a success that he is trying to take credit for an avoidable and potentially dangerous regional crisis that may undermine a U.S. war effort and might possibly even put Americans at risk. It would almost be comical if it weren’t so serious.

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "Trump’s Qatar Blunder"

#1 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 6, 2017 @ 10:17 am

Mr. Larison:

It will save time and work if you were just to note the occasions when Trump does NOT make a blunder.

You might have to write a column twice a year at most

#2 Comment By Linen42 On June 6, 2017 @ 10:23 am

The sheer level of completely stupid moronic decisions by this man is almost incomprehensible.

Not only do we put our soldiers, citizens, and affiliated members at risk in the country, we embolden greater discord among our reckless client states.

Today, we also find out that the Saudi Weapons deal is also BS: [15]

So what we have is a president and executive office lead by people who have no idea what they are doing, are running headlong from crisis to crisis, and are only lucky that the world is too afraid of getting in the way of these people doing stupid things that they haven’t fallen on their face and risked the lives of many people. We are one Hurricane away from realizing how bad things really are.

#3 Comment By a spencer On June 6, 2017 @ 10:34 am

“50 countries” which included Sudan until Bashir, uh, “declined” his invitation. Of course, it speaks volumes that KSA would invite him in the first place.

#4 Comment By victory over eurasia On June 6, 2017 @ 10:40 am

man, I hope those tax cuts are worth it……

Every time we think we are at the bottom of the hole, he gets a new shovel. As usual, hard to see how this lasts for 44 more months. What will he do if/when we have a genuine crisis or a minor terrorist event in the US? It’s a genuinely terrifying thought.

#5 Comment By Ollie On June 6, 2017 @ 10:45 am


Yes Micheal the recklessness accumulates and may be building to a crescendo.

It matters not whether Trump’s condition is genetic or due to accelerating sclerosis, it puts our nation in peril. Hopefully the private discussions of 25th amendment disability will quickly become more public and be acted upon.

#6 Comment By collin On June 6, 2017 @ 11:06 am

So far, this easily the biggest blunder for the administration as it seems wiser to let the diplomats do their job and hope for the best. This crisis was created by the Saudia government and it appears Trump is 100% behind them despite the fact Qatar is a (prombletic) ally with a large US military base in the Middle East. And the terror point is incredibly empty with any of the oil rich nations. (I suspect this payback for numerous things and supporting Al Jazzera media group.)

Call me crazy I still believe this is not going to end up in a war but the Saudias are purposely trying to create a bad environment for higher oil prices.

#7 Comment By Cut / Run On June 6, 2017 @ 11:38 am

He was supposed to get us out of the Middle East! Only five months in, and he’s getting us involved in yet another stupid Saudi mess.

Looking on the bright side, it’s at least possible that we’ll have to pull out of our base in Qatar, which would be a very welcome development indeed. So maybe he’s a genius after all!

#8 Comment By Cash On June 6, 2017 @ 11:46 am

Putin must be smiling. The reason the Russians like to destabilize the Middle East is their economy requires the highest possible oil prices.

The Saudis like expensive oil, too. But their regime is less robust so their tolerance for political/social turmoil is lower than Russia’s.

I’ll bet the US national security apparatus learned about Trump’s move pretty much the same way we did — by reading about in the news.

One more crisis like this and Trump’s removal from office will be a serious possibility. This is getting dangerous.

#9 Comment By Chris Chuba On June 6, 2017 @ 11:50 am

I find the obvious double standard here glaring. Saudi Arabia is obviously treating the entire Arabian Peninsula as their exclusive sphere of influence. This is something that our Foreign Policy Establishment screams in horror when countries like Russia and China plead that their borders are of a bigger concern for them than us.

Yet we applaud all of these Saudi initiatives, the invasion and pending genocide of Yemen, the brutalization of the Shiites of Bahrain, and now the KSA led blockade of Qatar. I’m not saying the Qataris are angels but their sin seems to be that they host the one semi-independent media outlet in the Arab world, Al Jazeera.

Man oh man, the KSA has exceeded Russia in how they have thrown their weight around and we have not blinked an eye. Instead we go running to them to ‘reassure them’. The hypocrisy is astounding.

#10 Comment By Guy_from_Iran On June 6, 2017 @ 11:54 am

You are all downplaying the advice Kushner is giving to Trump.
I personally fear for the fate of the world.

#11 Comment By Jay C On June 6, 2017 @ 11:59 am

“Leaders pointed to Qatar”. And, I’m sure, “reminded” Trump that they (Qatar) were pals with Iran, and, since Iran is behind everything bad in the world, the crude pressure-tactics would make him (Trump) look like a Brave Noble Hero for helping to screw them over. Maybe they’ll give him another medal for it, or something…

And I wonder: did they have the foresight to get Trump to support their demand for shutting down Al-Jazeera by telling him it’s all “Fake News”??

#12 Comment By CharleyCarp On June 6, 2017 @ 12:24 pm

You know, there may well not even be a tax cut.

#13 Comment By Guy_from_Iran On June 6, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

I have reached the conclusion that Mr Kushner has accepted the notion that secular autocrats constitute the best chance of managing Islamic extremism in the Middle East and he is advising Mr Trump to embrace such leaders (for example Khalifa Hiftar in Libya, Al-Sisi in Egypt, King Salman in KSA and King Abdullah in Jordan).
The more interesting point for me is Mr Trump’s relations with Turkey’s Erdogan; some interest groups brand him with Al-Thani family in Qatar and Muslim Brotherhood (and Hamas) as Islamist, but it’s still to soon to tell.

#14 Comment By … and into the fire On June 6, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

“Looking on the bright side, it’s at least possible that we’ll have to pull out of our base in Qatar, which would be a very welcome development indeed. So maybe he’s a genius after all!”

Nice thought, but at the rate he’s going, he’ll put them out of Qatar only to move them to KSA, causing another ten or twenty years of terror attacks. US bases in the Muslim holy land were second only to Israel/Palestine on bin Laden’s list of reasons for attacking us on 9/11.

#15 Comment By rayray On June 6, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

“Putin must be smiling. The reason the Russians like to destabilize the Middle East is their economy requires the highest possible oil prices.”

According to the intelligence officers I’ve spoken to, this is everything to them. This is also why the Russians have exerted climate change denial influence in the administration. Oil is everything and the only thing to Putin, it’s all he has ultimately. And one of his biggest concerns is not only falling oil prices but also alternative energies.

And Trump is just dumb enough and compromised enough to be easily manipulated to keep oil king.

#16 Comment By Kevin On June 6, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

“According to the intelligence officers I’ve spoken to, this is everything to them. This is also why the Russians have exerted climate change denial influence in the administration. Oil is everything and the only thing to Putin, it’s all he has ultimately. And one of his biggest concerns is not only falling oil prices but also alternative energies”

I am not a fan of Putin , but your friends mislead you . For once , the key to oil prices is in fracking , not ME oil- so the impact of making noise there is limited.
Second, Russia frowns on american/ saudi saber rattling towards Iran- not something it would do if it only wanted hikes in price of oil .

Most importantly: Russia is a major exporter of gas, so the decline of coal and rise of natural gas as transitional energy is good news for it . Russia also has a good nuclear industry

#17 Comment By jk On June 6, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually bombs the US Airbase in Qatar since he didn’t know its there.

#18 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 7, 2017 @ 12:01 am

Please explain to me again why we invaded Iraq.

#19 Comment By Patrick D On June 7, 2017 @ 12:56 am

Once again, a good rule of thumb is that if the U.S. does/says something that seems entirely at odds with its vital national interests… and reality… it is something that both Israel and Saudi Arabia want.

#20 Comment By Patrick D On June 7, 2017 @ 1:36 am

… sorry, should have mentioned that Qatar is the current host of HAMAS since the Syrian civil war started. Given that the Syrian government’s Sunni jihadi enemies are ideological allies of HAMAS, they had to swap the patronage of Syria and Iran for that of Qatar.

#21 Comment By Mike Schilling On June 7, 2017 @ 2:04 am

At least when Milo Minderbinder bombed his own troops he made a profit on the deal.

#22 Comment By Michael Fiorillo On June 7, 2017 @ 7:41 am

Why is anyone surprised?

Empires don’t decline and collapse with seasoned, reality-based statespeople at the helm; they fall apart when they’ve devolved into cronyism, impunity and elite looting of the “Homeland.”

I have to shake my head at the surprise shown by Left and Right. The anti-imperialist Left seems shocked that the empire’s decline should be in the hands of a know-nothing con man, rather than themselves, and the Right is shocked that a bunch of privateers acts upon the ideology (profit by arbitraging the chaos you sow globally, and privatize everything in sight!)) it’s been promoting for decades.

Folks, welcome to what Lewis Mumford more than half-a-century ago called the Electronic Dark Ages, and fasten your seat belts…

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 7, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

My first response was, good grief have base of operations in Qatar. Then I took some time to think about it.

We probably should have never placed a base in Qatar anymore than we should have invaded Iraq.

So the Pres. Here’s that Qatar is a source for terrorism. He tells Qatar, we can’t support if that is the case. Qatar says, we won’t stop supporting our fellow muslims, including those who in their minds are involved in armed struggle. We view such behavior as terrorism.

The long standing feuds among those states are playing themselves out. There was a time when a natural buffer existed between these part’s at offs. I think that buffer was led by mmmmm . . . ohh yeah, Pres Saddam Hussein.

Of course the Saudis and others are feeling a pinch. Because the Iranian influence and relation in Iraq is exactly the concerns expressed by Pres Hussein, before he was executed (murdered) in a very strange trial. The Saudis cannot do much about the mess in Iraq and the Iranian advisers, militias and military cooperation among the Shia. But she does think she has some sway in events of Yemen.

I have no idea whether Qatar is a supporter of terrorism. But I do know the hits from removing Pres Hussein just keep on coming as events spiral out of control. The contention that we have operations ongoing begs the question of whether or not we should.

It is entirely possible that our friends in Qatar have agendas all their own and our base serves as excellent cover. As has been noted before by many,

“We are out of our depth in this region.” We just don’t the issues, the players, strategies or the motivating factors. Now previous admin have been able to hide their ignorance in the smoke of taking action. What is being revealed by this Pres. is not his ignorance, but the ignorance of a long history of foolish interventions. A good deal of truth is coming to light. Blaming the current the executive for a situation he inherited is just more smoke.

I am not saying I approve of tweeting. But it tells more about the region than it reveals about this Pres. It also reveals a troubling environment in which the Pres. advisors whose responsibility it is to keep him informed may not be as forthcoming as they should be or maybe they don’t know.