America on Both Sides of Qatar Crisis
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt promised to impose additional “political, economic and legal measures” on Doha for its alleged support of terrorism. The announcement came a day after Qatar refused to honor a list of 13-demands, ignoring a newly set deadline which expired Wednesday.
“All political, economic and legal measures will be taken in the manner and at the time deemed appropriate to preserve the four countries’ rights, security and stability,” a joint statement released late Thursday said, according to Al Jazeera.
Qatar has “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
“I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding ‒ they have to end that funding ‒ and its extremist ideology.”
The USA still sees Qatar as a reliable and strategic partner in the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, despite the ongoing blockade of the Gulf state by four Arab countries which have promised to intensify its sanctions regime over Doha’s alleged support of terrorism.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis discussed the “deepening” of the “strategic security partnership” between Washington and Doha with Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Dr. Khalid al-Attiyah, the Pentagon announced.
“The secretary and the minister affirmed the strategic security partnership and discussed mutual security interests, including the current status of operations against ISIS,” Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana W. White said in a press release.
Mattis especially “emphasized the importance” of Qatar’s role in the US-led anti-IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition, highlighting Doha’s recent “contribution of C-17 cargo aircraft to the campaign to defeat ISIS.”
While Mattis noted the “importance of de-escalating tensions,” the US State Department warned that the Gulf Crisis could “possibly even intensify.”
“We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation involving Qatar and GCC countries… We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks; it could drag on for months; it could possibly even intensify,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert noted Thursday.
In June, at the onset of the Gulf political crisis, Mattis and Al-Attiyah sealed a $12 billion deal for the purchase of up to 36 US-made F-15 fighter jets. At the time, the Pentagon said the agreement will give Doha a “state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar.”
The deal was signed despite US President Donald Trump labeling Qatar a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism, and which the US has nevertheless been supplying with top-level military technology for years.