Qatar Crisis: Trump Gloats, White House Urges Gulf Unity

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” Trump tweeted.

3 min read
In this photo provided by Doha News, shoppers stock up on supplies at a supermarket in Doha on 5 June after Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar. (Photo: AP)
  • Middle-eastern countries isolate Qatar over accusations of funding Islamist militants
  • Qatar vehemently denies accusations of funding terrorism
  • Qataris crowd supermarkets, fearing shortages
  • Trump blasts US ally Qatar after Middle East trip
  • Qatar hosts the largest US air base in the region, which is a staging ground for US-led strikes against ISIS.
  • White House releases statement saying Trump stresses on need for unity

US President Donald Trump took sides in a deep rift in the Arab world on 6 June, praising the Middle East countries' actions against American ally Qatar over Islamist militants even though the tiny Gulf state hosts the largest US air base in the region.

Trump wrote on Twitter that his recent trip to the Middle East was "already paying off" and cast an anti-Islamist speech he made in Saudi Arabia as the inspiration for a decision by Arab powers to sever ties with Qatar in protest at what they say is the Gulf nation's support for terrorism.


Qatar vehemently denies the accusations.

Differing from Trump’s sentiments on Twitter, a senior White House official later said that the US President spoke with Saudi King Salman on phone and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His (Trump’s) message was that we need unity in the region to fight extremist ideology and terrorist financing. It’s important that the Gulf be united for peace and security in the region.
Senior official

US officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, current and former officials in Washington told Reuters. The US was not informed of the decision until just before it was announced, the State Department said.

At Odds: Trump Gloats While White House Wants Unity

Even as Trump applauded the Arab countries' move, the Pentagon on Tuesday renewed praise of Qatar for hosting US forces and its "enduring commitment to regional security."

Some 8,000 US military personnel are stationed at al Udeid in Qatar, the largest US air base in the Middle East and a staging ground for US-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke on Tuesday by phone with his Qatari counterpart, a Pentagon spokesman said, without disclosing the details of their discussion.

Trump's tweet appeared at odds with comments from US officials who had said on Monday that the US would quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar because Qatar is too important to US military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.

Qatar has for years parlayed its enormous gas wealth and media strength into broad influence in the region. But Gulf Arab neighbours and Egypt have long been irked by its maverick stances and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a political enemy.


Qatar Isolated, People Panic

The campaign to isolate Qatar disrupted trade in commodities from crude oil to metals and food, and deepened fears of a possible shock to the global natural gas market, where it is a major player. Qataris crowded into supermarkets to stock up on goods, fearing shortages.

Maersk, the world's biggest container shipping line, said it was unable to transport goods in or out of Qatar because it could not take them through the UAE port of Jebel Ali.

Jordan joined the pressure on Qatar, downgrading its diplomatic representation and revoking the license of Doha-based TV channel Al Jazeera.

Mediation and Consequences

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the US is communicating with all the parties in the Middle East "to resolve issues and restore cooperation" over the Qatar dispute.

The US still wants to see this issue de-escalated and resolved immediately, in keeping with the principles that the president laid out in terms of defeating terror financing and extremism.
Sean Spicer, White House Spokesperson

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah flew to Saudi Arabia for talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi and Kuwaiti state media reported, but gave no details on the discussions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in a phone call that crisis situations should be solved by political and diplomatic means, "in dialogue", the Kremlin said.

The rift has affected global oil prices, hit travel plans and sown confusion among businesses.

(This article has been edited for length.)

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