The Pentagon is distancing itself from President Donald Trump over remarks he made on the United States’ relationship with Qatar.
Trump this week took credit for a recent diplomat shakeup in the Middle East. Several Arab countries, including key U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cut ties with Qatar over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Those countries consider the largely nonviolent group to be a terrorist organization, but the official U.S. policy is that it’s not. Trump’s recent tweets seemed contradict that stance, however.
Asked about the commander in chief’s comments, Department of Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that, “I can’t help you with that... I will only tell you that we have, with regard to our bases there, continued presence in our operations.”
Davis also praised Qatar for what he called an “enduring commitment to regional security.” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert echoed those remarks, telling reporters on Tuesday that, “our relationship with Qatar is one that’s strong” and U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith retweeted an earlier statement she’d made about the “great partnership” between the two countries.
Trump’s comments came as a shock to officials in Qatar, which Trump had only weeks ago called a friend.
“We were surprised” by Trump’s comments, Qatar’s Ambassador to the U.S., Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, told the Daily Beast. “It’s unfortunate to see these tweets. We have close coordination with the United States. They know our efforts to combat financial terrorism and terrorism.”
It’s only the latest example of Trump’s Twitter rants creating friction with a key U.S. partner. Earlier this week, he lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling his reaction to the city’s recent terror attack “pathetic.” Both British Prime Minister Theresa May and the acting U.S. ambassador to the U.K. Lewis Lukens praised the mayor in response. Khan then suggested the U.K., widely considered the United States’ closest ally, cancel Trump’s upcoming visit.
Trump has also publicly squared off with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over refugees and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over a proposed border wall. He also irritated basically the entire world by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.
“Fundamentally, Trump in the last 4½ months has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how America has engaged the world for the last 70 years,” former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder told HuffPost.