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Trump's Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario

The failure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in four-day talks with the Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and a Kuwaiti official, to mediate an end to the inter-Arab dispute over Qatar, suggests that U.S. influence in the Middle East is waning. Even in the wake of the most recent massive Saudi arms deal announced during Trump’s visit to Riyadh on June 5, and the president’s receipt of the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar, Washington is unable to dissuade its “enduring partner” from its highly rash course of action.

The New York Times reports that Tillerson flew out from Jeddah Wednesday night “without even attempting the usual tight-smiled announcements of incremental progress.” Maybe because there was none.

The Saudis, along with their Egyptian, UAE, and Bahraini allies, are determined to ostracize and isolate Qatar. Not for the stated reason—repeated by a clueless Donald Trump on June 9—that Qatar supports terrorism.

Trump, claiming credit for leading the effort, declared,

“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

He claimed (alluding to his Saudi visit) that

“nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior… I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding—they have to end that funding, and its extremist ideology in terms of funding. Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism.”

This is bulls..t. It rests upon the Saudi and Egyptian assumption that tolerating the Muslim Brotherhood, allowing media criticisms of Gulf Cooperation Council regimes, and refusal to condemn Hezbollah all constitute support for terrorism.

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