Today, Saudi Arabia and its sycophant allies (Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt) have resorted to extortion in their dealings with Qatar. This internal dispute among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council was joined by the United States when President Trump ignorantly supported Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Qatar during and after his recent trip to Saudi Arabia.
To deflect attention from their own longstanding funding of Muslim extremists in Mosques and Madrassas (with ample proof—Osama bi Laden, the creation of Al-Qaeda, 9/11 and funding of ISIS by Saudis, if not by the Al-Sauds) and to expunge all criticism of their oppressive rule (absence of any political rights, free press and representative government), the Al-Sauds falsely accused Qatar of being a main sponsor of terrorism. With his off-the-cuff comments and dangerous tweets, President Trump endorsed the Saudi position, a stand that now has global consequences.
An emboldened Saudi Arabia has embargoed and threatened Qatar, a sovereign nation. And today, Qatar was given 10 days to comply with a list of demands or face unknown consequences—a rare case of blatant coercion from one country to another. The demands include:
- To shut down the broadcasting system of Al-Jazeera and stop funding other news outlets
- To close down a Turkish military base established by formal treaty by two sovereign nations
- To sever diplomatic and other relations with Iran
- To sever all relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations deemed threatening to the interests and legitimacy of the House of Saud
- To stop funding to any organization labeled as terrorist by the United States
- To expel citizens of a number of countries
- To follow the political, economic and other dictates of the Gulf Cooperation Council
- To pay an unspecified sum of money
While these demands are outlandish, they are even more outrageous coming from a regime that many consider to be among the most repressive in the world.
While some may think that this mafia-style extortion is thousands of miles away and of little concern to America, they should think again. President Trump has put the United States smack in the middle of this Saudi power play with consequences that go far and wide.
Saudi Arabia is essentially annexing a sovereign nation by telling it to do as the Al-Sauds demand or face possible invasion. America’s support of this muscular power play will earn it hundreds of millions of enemies around the world, endanger American interests and have the United States be seen as a pariah nation.
The U. S. will offend an important NATO ally, Turkey—something that could endanger the alliance by inducing a confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey and also endangering the roughly 11,000 U.S. servicemen stationed in Qatar and also the future of the airbase where they are stationed.
Iran may renew its claim to Bahrain, a claim that the Shah of Iran was willing to rescind if there was a fair plebiscite (a fairness that was even questioned at the time) and if Bahrain was to remain an independent nation (something that has been clearly breached by Saudi Arabia in many ways with oppression of the Shia majority who make up 65 percent of Bahrain’s population that organizations have labeled as crimes against humanity). More broadly, Iran cannot stand by as Saudi Arabia with U.S. support is on a rampage in the Persian Gulf. Iran-U.S. relations are likely to plummet to new lows and hostilities in the region are likely to multiply.
Where will Iraq stand in all this? I believe that Iraq will in time stand squarely with Qatar, Iran and Turkey in opposing this American supported coercion, and this, in turn, will endanger U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq and U.S. interests even farther afield.
President Trump should take a deep breath, study a little history of the Middle East, consider what made America great in the eyes of much of the world in the immediate post-WWII era and what has reversed this admiration, put his own business interest aside, and pursue carefully considered policies to promote human rights, democratic values, peace and America’s interests in this dispute and more broadly in the Middle East.
But first things first, President Trump should immediately undo the mess with Qatar that he has helped create before tensions escalate and matters get out of hand.