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Trump chooses multibillion-dollar Saudi deal over security cooperation with Qatar

US President Donald Trump (L) meets Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) in Riyadh, Saudi on 20 May, 2017 [Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency]
US President Donald Trump (L) meets Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency]

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Everything appeared in order. It was business as usual. But, something went wrong. The house of cards crumbled. Plenty of dreams shattered. Plenty of business ventures collapsed. It was all too sudden. It was all too sultry. It was all too abrupt. If there was one issue President Trump shouldn’t have tweeted about, this was it. But flamboyance doesn’t always come with sagacity anyway.

So, after a historic tour and cordial meetings with the GCC head of states concluding just recently, Trump decided to send out multiple tweets in response to the rather abrasive decision taken by the seven influential countries to ‘disown’ Qatar, both literally and figuratively. POTUS stated: “so good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seems to have summed up the efficacy of Trump’s tweet – “When did that occur?” he was reported to have said when asked about his response to the tweet. Perhaps the president of the United States needs to take some of his cabinet members on board while speaking about Qatar, particularly via social media. What the other US officials have stated (both on and off camera) about Qatar is miles apart from what Trump has had to say.

Read: Trump’s visit affected crisis with Qatar, claims Israeli diplomat

Also, it was way too early to make the move. But then again, perfect timing isn’t what the analysts tend to associate most often with Trump. From Russian hackers planting fake news to Qatari royals making billion-dollar payments to Al-Qaeda affiliates, there is at this point in time speculation about what triggered the crisis. Some is hogwash whilst other news pieces require independent analysis.

What’s more intriguing is that Qatar’s isolation is likely to affect the counterterrorism strategies being employed in the region. America should’ve known this, and many of the officials might actually have, but call it impulsiveness or whatever, but Trump might just have done enough harm to the counterterrorism policies in place. When it comes to counterterrorism, you just can’t succeed with the ‘my way or the highway’ sort of a behaviour with your partners.

#QatarGate

Qatar, mind you, is (read: was) one of the pivotal players with regard to America’s security policy in the Middle East. There’s a reason why Trump’s decision wouldn’t go down well with the security experts around the globe. Qatar hosts the largest military base the US operates in the Middle East. The base has been particularly useful in military missions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. This one’s interesting: the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff has in the past repeatedly called for discussions and deliberations with the Qatari military leadership on issues involving extremist and terrorism.

To forgo Qatar is a dangerous thing to do – the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, seemed to have known this though. Just a day before Trump’s tweet he categorically stated that the rift between Qatar and its neighbours wouldn’t affect the counterterrorism cooperation the US has in place with the country. Trump had other ideas altogether. What the president of America needs to be reminded about is that the all too important and the all too complicated operation in Raqqa might get a hammering. There have been crucial gains by the coalition forces against Daesh but now things are going to get more intense than ever.

Read: UAE, Saudi campaign to end Qatar’s independence

This transactional approach to foreign policy can be flagitious for the United States. But, there’s one player in all of this GCC-Qatar-US severance that will, most probably, be savouring the latest developments in the Middle East. Daesh, it is. Wasn’t tough to call. Was it?

Agreed. Trump did manage to make a hefty deal with the Saudis. There’ll be jobs. Saudi Arabia has promised to pump in more money in the near future. Pretty heroic? Not really, folks. Was it worth the risk? Counterterrorism cooperation in the Middle East vs. a multibillion-dollar deal? Which would you rather pick? President Trump seems to have answered it already. Let’s see how well it works out. No, don’t try analysing it by the situation it brings about – rely on Trump’s twitter handle that’s all you need to decipher the unwieldy stuff.

It’s all about a tweet you know.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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