Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir bashed its neighbors in Qatar on Tuesday, saying that they have to provide troops for the Syrian campaign in lieu of Americans withdrawing from the country.
“Qatar has to pay for the U.S. military presence in Syria and send their military forces there before the U.S. president withdraws his protection to Qatar,” al-Jubeir said.
His statement came just days after US and French presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement calling for Middle Eastern countries to pick up the tab for Syrian redevelopment and put boots on the ground inside the war-torn country. Trump remains determined to withdraw 2,000 US military personnel currently in Syria and has reached out to “countries that are in the area, some of which are immensely wealthy” to fill the gap.
Qatar seems to be reluctant to fulfill President Trump’s request, which has caused some backlash both from Washington and Riyadh. “Send its military forces (to Syria) before the U.S. president cancels U.S. protection of Qatar, which consists of the presence of a U.S. military base on its territory,” Saudi minister al-Jubeir said.
The base in question is Al-Udeid air base near Doha, which is currently holding some 10,000 servicemen and is the largest US base in the Middle East. The home of US Central Command, Al-Udeid is vital to the American operations in the region. There are pressures from both US military and Qatar government to make the base a permanent fixture, something the State Department strongly opposes.
Losing the base would be disastrous to Qatar, currently under sanctions from most of its neighbors. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen embargoed the country last year, after accusations of supporting terrorism, something Mr. Trump agrees with. If Americans leave, Qatar will find itself in a very hostile environment, without much to defend itself with. That is why it is most likely to accept sending its soldiers to Syria, despite the reluctance.