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Trump’s Qatar Blunder

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.

The blockade of Qatar I mentioned 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 and Mattis yesterday. The al-Udeid base 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 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 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.



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