Senior US envoy tasked with resolving the diplomatic row between Qatar and its Arab neighbours has resigned citing failure to “make any progress” and “unwillingness of the regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort”.
Retired Marine Corps General, Anthony Zinni, announced his decision to quit his role nearly a year and half after being appointed by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to resolve the dispute between the Saudi-led quarter and Qatar, which erupted in June 2017.
The diplomatic crises began when the Saudi led coalition that included the UAE and Egypt, cut ties with neighbouring Qatar, accusing the gas rich state of supporting terrorism. Though Qatar strongly denied the allegations, it was subjected to a land, sea and air blockade.
US President Donald Trump was suspected of giving a green-light to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salam for the hostility towards Qatar. His senior officials, including Tillerson, who was sacked over differences with Trump, strongly opposed the move to isolate Doha.
According to the Washington Post, Zinni described his resignation in a Monday letter to the State Department as a “formality” rather than as a protest. However eyebrows are likely to be raised with the resignation coming so soon after a series of high profile departures from Trump’s administration.
Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general was one of many former military men to be appointed into senior positions within the Trump administration. Only two years into the Trump presidency every one of the former generals departed acrimoniously. The most recent, prior to Zinni’s departure, was the resignation of Jim Mattis who left at the end of December following disagreement over Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Zinni cited the “unwillingness of regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort that [we] offered to conduct or assist in implementing,” for his reason to leave the job. He felt that his work, which included building of a strategic US alliance with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council was being undermined. “I had done my thing and didn’t see anything else” to do, he said.
Its reported that Robert Palladino, who previously served as the State Department Deputy spokesperson will continue to pursue Zinni’s work, which also included discussing with regional leaders the idea of a NATO-like group called the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA).
Observers cited by AlJazeera say the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul upended plans for US-brokered talks to resolve the Gulf crisis. Sigurd Neubauer, a Gulf political analyst, said that without an end to the Qatar blockade and no sign of the White House hosting a summit anytime soon, an alliance such as MESA has no chance of being stood up.
“Even though he [Zinni] was tasked to help resolve the crisis, once that was no longer attainable, at least in the current environment, he sought to repair the rift through integrated military cooperation,” Neubauer told Al Jazeera.
“And with the murder of Khashoggi, that became an impossibility.”