Overnight, several Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, decided to completely sever ties with Qatar — one of America’s top Middle East allies — and experts are calling it the biggest political crisis to the Middle East in decades. But what triggered this extraordinary event? Well, you guessed it: Donald Trump.
On Friday, a reckless President Trump threw Qatar under the bus, publicly accusing the U.S. ally of supporting and financing terrorism in the Middle East —a charge Qatar denies— and potentially threatening the future of a vital US military base. Trump slammed the U.S. strategic partner an hour after his administration defended it.
“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump said at a press conference with the president of Romania on Friday. “I’ve decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals, and military people, the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding. They have to end that funding. And its extremist ideology in terms of funding.”
But just an hour earlier, Tillerson was publicly defending Qatar, calling for the countries that had severed ties with Qatar to “immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other.” He argued that the boycott impeded US military efforts, and was also objectionable on “humanitarian” grounds.
Qatar is the site of the largest U.S. military base in the region and the launching point of numerous U.S. Air Force bombing missions, and is currently the target of a multi-country political boycott and blockade in the Middle East led by Saudi Arabia.
By siding so vociferously with Saudi Arabia, Trump’s latest foray into Middle East diplomacy has managed to roil allies and adversaries alike, and inflame already volatile tensions between the Gulf region’s two powerhouses, Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.
Why it matters:
Any kind of instability in the Middle East tends to sing old prices up. In fact, while Qatar stock prices have already dipped, oil is going up with crude already trading at around $50 a barrel, CNN reports.
The longer oil goes up the more likelihood that you be paying more at the pump. This, of course, is music to Rex Tillerson’s ears.
In Order to minimize the impact of the crisis, Iran responded by sending planes stuffed with food to Qatar.
As the blockade against Qatar, five Iranian planes filled with food have landed at Doha airport. Iran said the planes were filled with vegetables.
According to CNN, the country plans to send 100 tons of fresh fruit and legumes every day to the import-dependent nation.
“So far five planes carrying … vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tons of cargo, while another plane will be sent today. We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi told the Agence France-Presse news agency Sunday.
The Pentagon speaks up:
Friday, spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said: “The evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations.”
“Qatar remains critical for coalition air operations in the fight against ISIS and around the region,” Davis said.
By favoring the Saudis over Qatar, “the President is ignoring those who have been equally supportive of terrorism abroad,” he said, according to Los Angeles Times.