Trump takes sides in Arab rift, suggests support for isolation of Qatar

Posted June 10, 2017

"As a matter of policy we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries or their bilateral relations with each other".

Earlier this week, Trump invited the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Al Thani, to the White House, telling the leader he would help resolve the dispute.

The escalating crisis in the Persian Gulf erupted Monday, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar, accusing the country of tolerating or even encouraging support for extremist groups, including al-Qaida's Syria branch. "We have to stop the funding of terrorism", in an extraordinary escalation of the diplomatic row with one America's most important military partners in the Middle East".

The small Gulf Arab state is a critical global supplier of gas and hosts the biggest USA military base in the Middle East.

The United Arab Emirates tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar on Wednesday, threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards Doha with up to 15 years in prison and barring entry to Qataris.

While applauding a Kuwaiti effort to mediate the crisis, Gargash said Emirati and Saudi officials planned to concede nothing to Qatar, an worldwide air travel hub now cut off from some of the skies around it and blocked from receiving the trucks full of food it relies on to feed its citizens.

The feud complicates efforts to stabilize countries reeling from years of turmoil and undermines the notion of a Sunni Muslim Arab world united against terrorism and Iran, proclaimed by U.S. President Donald Trump in his visit last month.

Qatar, which has developed an assertive foreign policy over the past decade, denies that it supports militants and says it is helping to reduce the threat of terrorism by backing groups that fight poverty and seek political reform. The immediate effect of the crisis was on the country's air travel, which came to a halt after the Gulf neighbors decided not fly their airlines to Qatar.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they sanctioned the groups and individuals because of "the continuous and ongoing violations of the authorities in Doha of Qatar's commitments and obligations".

Trump, on the other hand, took the side of the four gulf states implementing the blockade over Qatar's alleged funding of terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia also closed Qatar's only land border.

In an extraordinary broadside against a key USA partner, President Donald Trump lambasted Qatar on Friday for funding terrorism "at a very high level" and insisted that it stop. Davis said the diplomatic rift has not interrupted or curtailed operations at al-Udeid air base, a launching pad for USA military efforts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Kadir Has University professor Serhat Guvenc says Qatar will suffer badly if the crisis is not solved in a short time, and if the crisis continues this will impact Turkey adversely due to its support of Qatar.

Their "fingerprints are all over the place" in terror funding, Gargash said.

One US official said that while Qatar needs to do more to combat terrorist financing, it was inaccurate to single out that Gulf nation.