Trump Changes Course on Qatar

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Associated Press reports that President Donald J. Trump offered Wednesday to personally broker a resolution to the Persian Gulf’s escalating diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors:

In a phone call with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, Trump said he wanted to help Qatar and its Arab neighbors resolve the row that has upended any sense of Gulf unity, suggesting a possible White House summit among leaders. Though Trump again said countries must eliminate funding streams for terror groups, the White House said he focused on the need for the region’s various U.S. allies to stick together.

That’s a yuge reversal from President Trump’s position, tweeted on Tuesday, that Qatar enables terrorism.

Qatar is eager for Trump’s help and is counting on Washington to persuade Saudi Arabia and others to back down:

We have great confidence in the president’s ability to calm this crisis and to resolve it.

As streiff has pointed out, Israel appears to be a winner in the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its neighbors. But Iran also seems positioned to benefit from the crisis:

“In terms of Realpolitik, this is good for Iran,” said Foad Izadi, a member of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran. Qatar is “blocked from all sides except the side that looks at Iran.”

[. . .]

With Iran able to provide quick fixes to some of Qatar’s woes, however, the clash is pushing the two nations closer.

[. . .]

Qataris now depend on Iran to survive with regards to air corridors and shipping lanes.

State-run Airports & Air Fleet Co. of Iran has made preparations to receive an additional 100 to 150 flights daily from Qatar, Rahmatullah Mahabadi, the company’s managing director said in a Payam Radio broadcast. Revenue to Iran will grow as a result. Iran also said it was ready to ship food to the emirate, which relies on imports.

With Qatar isolated from its neighbors, “Iran is the closest country that can export food to Qatar within 12 hours by sea.”

And of course Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to take advantage of the crisis. According to Bloomberg, Russia, which urged talks to resolve the confrontation, is trying to maintain a delicate balance as it has close ties with Qatar and is cooperating with Saudi Arabia to stabilize oil markets and resolve the war in Syria, where it’s also working with Iran.

To make the situation even more complicated, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also backing Qatar. Erdogan, has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Some ally.

President Trump is going to have his hands full trying to resolve this mess. Step one is taking Caleb Howe’s advice.

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