When President Trump announced in June last year that he has evidence of Qatar’s government financing terrorism, many were taken by surprise. Not only has Qatar been an American ally in conflicts in the Middle East, but the largest US airbase in the region is located in Al Udeid.
Some were delighted by the news. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt all hold a grudge against Qatar and especially against their news agency, Al Jazeera, which has become one of the biggest and the most influential news outlets in the world. And if there’s something despotic governments hate more than a news source they can’t control is a news source controlled by their rivals, and all of the countries listed above see Qatar as a rival.
While not many details have emerged about Qatar’s alleged cooperation with fundamentalists, there are concerning developments. The country has kept close ties with Iran, despite the protest from its co-members in Gulf Cooperation Council. It has also allowed Turkey to set up a military base, the first one Istanbul has opened in the Gulf region, something even Washington isn’t happy about.
Yet, it would seem that Donald Trump has decided that he does need Qatar and he is lifting sanctions against the country, much to the dismay of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. They feel that the move is premature and will only serve to encourage others to behave like Qatar allegedly did.
Many experts agree that this is the definite sign that Trump has decided to abandon the Iran Deal and is trying to get as many allies in the region as possible before May 12th, when he will announce that he is pulling America out of the agreement.
Whether he plans on immediately relaunching sanctions that were lifted after the deal was signed is still unclear at the moment, but the general consensus is that this is a very dangerous move that will only lead to Iran restarting its nuclear program. As a result, it will add to the instability in the region, already shaken by decades of wars and insurgencies.
While Qatar’s role in any future confrontation with Iran won’t be a crucial one, it is important for the White House to have emir and his tiny country in the fold, once the deal gets scrapped. Qatar under sanctions is an obvious target for Iran’s counter-strike and a fertile ground for dissent to spill over to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. The tiny country has managed its blockade very well, due to its diplomacy. It has maintained its production of the natural gas, Qatar Airways have moved its air routes around to accommodate for the new limitations imposed by the blockading nations, and Al Jazeera was blasting as usual. The blockade has become a new reality for emir and his people and they were getting very good at it, even managing to fire back at their enemies.
All that is over now and Qatar is back in the alliance. The price they have to pay for that may prove too high.