US President Donald Trump fails in bid to cool Saudi-Qatar tensions despite vow of quick result

September 10, 2017 6:27 am

President Donald Trump (R) looks on as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah speaks during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s attempt to cool escalating tensions between  and has ended up in failure this week as the two Arab kingdoms release conflicting statements shortly after a phone conversation organized by Trump.
The US-based New York Times reported Saturday that Trump arranged the phone call and promised a breakthrough in the bitter dispute that threatens US security interests among despotic Arab allies in the region, which purchase vast amounts of American weaponry and play host to key US military bases in their countries.
Since June, the Saudi regime has led close allies such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in imposing a harsh trade and transport boycott against tiny, gas-rich Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism and seeking better ties with Iran.
Qatar, however, has rejected such charges, countering that its Arab rivals are seeking to curtail its sovereignty and reign in its influential television channel Al Jazeera.
According to the report, Trump stepped into the fray in the past week, offering to mediate in the Qatari-Saudi conflict and vowing a quick victory.
“I think you’d have a deal worked out very quickly,” he said Thursday at the White House while standing alongside the visiting emir of Kuwait, who has led Arab efforts to end the standoff.
The report noted, however, that Trump’s hand may have been weakened by his own insistence on taking sides. After initially backing the Saudis, he then seemed to take a more balanced approach at the urging of his secretary of state Max Tillerson, who is more familiar with leaders on both sides from his previous career as an oil executive.
Qatar is home to the largest American air base in the Middle East and is the center of military operations purportedly against Daesh Takfiris in Syria and Iraq.
But during the White House event on Thursday, Trump appeared to take a new jab at Qatar – which is host to the largest US air base in the Middle East — when he complained of the “massive funding of terrorism by certain countries.”
Standing alongside Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah, the US president then warned, “If they don’t stop the funding of terrorism, I don’t want them to come together.”
This is while Friday’s phone call between the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to merely underline how difficult it might be to settle the fuming dispute.
Within hours of the call, Qatar’s state agency issued a statement that said the emir “welcomed a proposal” by the Saudi prince to appoint two peace envoys to help bridge their differences.
That language, however, enraged the Saudi rulers, who seemed insulted by the suggestion that they had bowed first in the dispute. The Saudi state news service then responded with its own version of events, citing unnamed authorities, accusing Qatar of distorting the facts and declaring that dialogue between the two monarchies had been suspended.
The exchange, according to the daily, “encapsulated the vehemence of a dispute that has worried Western countries allied with both sides.”
Moreover, the report noted, “An influence race has erupted in Washington, where both sides have spent huge sums on lobbyists and advertising in a bid to influence political and public opinion.”
This is while the White House issued a statement about the phone exchange saying that unity among the Arab nations “is essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran.”
It further added that Trump “also emphasized that all countries must follow through on commitments from the Riyadh Summit to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology.”
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