America's role in Qatar's isolation

America's role in Qatar's isolation

New diplomatic and political scandal shook already volatile Middle East. Seven states - Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya and Maldives simultaneously cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. The reason for this is the fact that Qatar supports terrorist groups and Iran. 

According to Thomas Jäger, professor of international politics and foreign policy at Cologne University, current actions of the Arab countries should be understood in the context of US President's recent speech about Islam. "Most of this speech he made in Riyadh before leaders and heads of governments of Muslim countries was dedicated to financing of terrorism. For many years we can see how the US Treasury Department is playing an increasingly important role in the fight against terrorism, tracking suspicious monetary transactions in the Middle East," professor said in an interview with Bild. According to Jäger, US investigators have already proved the existence of payments and contributions from Middle Eastern funds to various terrorist organizations with the tacit consent of national governments. "I believe that the current escalation is not aimed at long-term isolation of Qatar, but it's an instrument of pressure on the government, so that it would stop this financing," he believes. He also noted that America's skepticism towards Qatar has recently increased: "Washington believes Qatar is one of those states that are fighting in wrong weight category for a long time."

There are specific evidence of the fact that the United States are unhappy over some of Qatar's actions. For example, in October of 2016 former Assistant Secretary for the Department of the Treasury of the United States, Daniel Glaser, informed that over the past ten years Qatarians have made less progress in the fight against financing of terrorism than Saudi Arabia. You can also recall about cases when Americans refused to share intelligence before bombings of certain Islamist groups in Iraq with Arab coalition: Pentagon feared that terrorists would be warned about bombings. Many experts and media noted at that time, the US military did not trust, above all, their allies from Qatar.

Kristian Ulrichsen, a Baker Institute fellow for the Middle East, notes that if Qatar will be isolated for some time, it will seriously damage the schedule of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. "It seems that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are inspired by the fact that they have similar regional interests to the Trump administration regarding Iran and Islamists. That's why they decided to try an alternative approach to Qatar, based on the fact that they will have Trump's support," Reuters quoted him as saying.

It should be noted that Qatar was one of active supporters of the "Arab spring" movement, provided significant support to the Egyptian "Muslim Brotherhood", which obviously had negative impact on its relations with the current Egyptian government. In 2014, Egypt asked Qatar to extradite theologian Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, one of the ideological leaders of above mentioned movement. Doha refused.

In addition, Qatar maintains close economic ties with Iran in the energy sector, which has a positive impact on the political relations between Doha and Tehran. Qatar became the only participant in 2011 Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, which did not support anti-Iranian position over alleged Tehran's intervention in the situation in Bahrain.

It's likely that Donald Trump's clear anti-Iranian policy, as well as his position on terrorists ("I would bomb the shit out of them") played an important, if not decisive role in the new Middle East politics. Another thing that should be remembered is that the largest US military base in the Middle East is located 20 miles southwest of Doha. There are about 11 thousand US soldiers there. It's unlikely that Saudi Arabia or other countries opposing Qatar can make such important decision without a signal from Washington.