Trump of­fers to me­di­ate as Arab di­vi­sions harden

Qatar os­tracism strains a key U.S. mil­i­tary base

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY DAVE BOYER AND GUY TAY­LOR BRIEFLY This ar­ti­cle was based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

Pres­i­dent Trump spoke by phone Wed­nes­day with the leader of Qatar, of­fer­ing to help re­solve a bit­ter diplo­matic cri­sis be­tween that coun­try and other U.S. Arab al­lies that threat­ens the fight to block ter­ror fi­nanc­ing, take on groups such as Ha­mas and the Mus­lim Brother­hood and con­tain Iran’s am­bi­tions in the re­gion.

The White House said Mr. Trump “of­fered to help the par­ties re­solve their dif­fer­ences, in­clud­ing through a meet­ing at the White House if nec­es­sary.”

Led by Saudi Ara­bia and Egypt, nine na­tions have so far moved to sever diplo­matic ties with Qatar, a small na­tion of about 2.3 mil­lion on the Per­sian Gulf, but one which ranks among the globe’s en­ergy su­per­pow­ers and which is also the home to a U.S. mil­i­tary base crit­i­cal to the wars in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Ara­bia has cut all land, sea and air travel with Qatar, while the United Arab Emi­rates has closed air­ports and har­bors to Qatari flights and ship­ping.

In the phone call, Mr. Trump re­minded Emir Sheikh Tameem Bin Ha­mad Al Thani of Qatar of “the im­por­tance of all coun­tries in the re­gion work­ing to­gether to pre­vent the fi­nanc­ing of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions and stop the pro­mo­tion of ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy,” the White House said in a state­ment. Mr. Trump also spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mo­hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emi­rates dur­ing the day, the White House re­vealed.

Mr. Trump’s moves were backed by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who ac­knowl­edged the U.S. had to bal­ance its sup­port for its Gulf al­lies like Saudi Ara­bia with its need for the base in Qatar.

“I do think that we should put some pressure on Qatar” be­cause “I think they can im­prove their for­eign pol­icy — let’s just put it that way,” Mr. Ryan told re­porters in Wash­ing­ton.

The diplo­matic row took place just two weeks af­ter Mr. Trump con­vened a meet­ing of Arab and Mus­lim lead­ers in Saudi Ara­bia, se­cur­ing prom­ises from more than 50 na­tions — in­clud­ing Qatar — to step up ef­forts to com­bat ter­ror­ism. In post­ings to Twit­ter, Mr. Trump orig­i­nally seemed to sug­gest the os­tracism of Kuwait was a di­rect prod­uct of his own ef­forts to rally the Mus­lim world against Is­lamist rad­i­cals.

But the rift could com­pli­cate U.S. ef­forts in the re­gion, with Qatar po­ten­tially turn­ing to Tur­key and Iran and putting a cloud over the use of the Al Udeid air base.

“Strong sup­port by the United States for the Saudi-led coali­tion likely bol­stered those coun­tries’ con­fi­dence in mak­ing the move to iso­late Doha to this de­gree,” the pri­vate in­tel­li­gence firm Strat­for wrote in an anal­y­sis Wed­nes­day. “How­ever, that rift also com­pli­cates the United States’ mis­sion, since it counts on a tight Sunni coali­tion to man­age re­gional threats like the Is­lamic State.”

De­spite Mr. Trump’s of­fer and me­di­a­tion of­fers from re­gional states such as Kuwait, there were few signs the anger in the re­gion was eas­ing.

A top Emi­rati diplo­mat told The As­so­ci­ated Press Wed­nes­day “there’s noth­ing to ne­go­ti­ate” with Qatar over its al­leged fund­ing of ter­ror groups, sig­nal­ing Arab coun­tries won’t back down.

Speak­ing in a rare in­ter­view, Emi­rati Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash told the wire ser­vice that Qatar has “cho­sen to ride the tiger of ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism” and now needed to pay the price.

Mr. Gar­gash said Qatar “ab­so­lutely” should ex­pel mem­bers of Ha­mas, stop its sup­port of ter­ror groups “with al Qaeda DNA” around the world and rein in the many me­dia out­lets it funds, chief among them the Doha-based satel­lite news net­work Al-Jazeera, whose re­port­ing has re­peat­edly em­bar­rassed top of­fi­cials in Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and other states in the re­gion.

In one sign of hard­en­ing stances, the UAE is threat­en­ing stiff fines and up to 15 years in prison for any­one who ex­presses any other kind of pub­lic sup­port for Qatar.

“Strict and firm ac­tion will be taken against any­one who shows sym­pa­thy or any form of bias to­wards Qatar, or against any­one who ob­jects to the po­si­tion of the United Arab Emi­rates,” UAE At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ha­mad Saif Al Shamsi said in a state­ment to Ara­bic me­dia.

On a visit to Ger­many, Saudi Ara­bia’s for­eign min­is­ter told re­porters it was with “great pain” that his coun­try and oth­ers moved against Qatar, while ar­gu­ing the “cri­sis” with the small Gulf na­tion is based on years of frus­tra­tion with Doha’s poli­cies.

Adel al-Jubeir said he hopes Qatar can re­spond to de­mands put for­ward by his coun­try, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt to “re­store re­la­tions to how they were in the past.”

There was an “un­der­stand­ing” that Qatar would “take mea­sures in re­la­tion to sup­port­ing some or­ga­ni­za­tions and … some in­di­vid­u­als,” Mr. al-Jubeir said, but Qatar didn’t live up to its com­mit­ments.

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