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JINSA President and CEO Michael Makovsky in LifeZette on Saudi Crackdown on Qatar Over Terror Ties

Trump Doctrine: Saudis Lead Crackdown on Qatar Over Terror Ties
by Jim Stinson - LifeZette

While the Trump administration is saying it wants to help resolve the dispute between Qatar and seven Arab nations, the White House may have encouraged Arab allies to take action against Qatar, a small Arab state known for its suspect foreign policy.

The encouragement may have been unknowing.

But Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia, where he visited a new, state-of-the-art anti-extremism command center, might have been inspiring to Arab leaders who want to take on neighbors who support radical groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis may have also seen an opportunity to make a statement on Iran, viewed by many Sunni Arab allies as the No. 1 threat to the Arabian Peninsula.

"For decades, the Saudis did the same thing," said Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University and a foreign-policy expert. "This strong reaction in concert with Egypt bodes well for President Trump's strategy of enlisting the support of non-radical Arab regimes."

Qatar, a small and wealthy nation located on the north-central part of the Arabian Peninsula, has been accused of aiding and abetting extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. And it's been accused of being soft on Iran.

In perhaps the last straw for the Saudis, the Qatari leader reportedly called an Iranian leader to congratulate him on a recent election victory. An official statement about Iran was also so controversial to Arab states that Qatar deleted it and denied writing it, claiming the government agency that posted it "was hacked."

Iran and Saudi Arabia are bitter rivals in the Gulf Coast region, but Qatar shares rich natural gas fields with Iran.

But it wasn't business that irked the Saudis. The Iranian faux pas by Qatar apparently triggered massive diplomatic retaliation by other Arab states. On Sunday, in a surprise move, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and five other nations cut diplomatic ties with the Gulf state.

Most worrisome to Qatar's government, Saudi Arabia will block roads and shipping lanes that lead into Qatar, which could severely limit their food and medicine supplies in the next few weeks.

The other five nations that cut ties are Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and the Maldives. Many flights into Doha, the capital, have been canceled.

The diplomatic brouhaha leaves the United States in a bit of a quandary, even if President Donald Trump approves of the whack the seven nations have taken at Qatar. A key problem for the U.S. is deciding if it should leave the air base at Al Udeid.

Qatar allows the U.S. Air Force to fly B-52s out of the base, according to Bob Gates, the Republican secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama, speaking to defense officials at the end of May.

The base allows Qatar to have some protection against Iran. But unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar has tried to be ambiguous about its opposition to Iran, which is seen as an existential threat to most Arab Gulf states.

But so far, Arab states have not said they have a problem with the U.S. base, which is seen as a key protection against Iranian aggression.

The Trump administration is more likely to stay, and try to repair relations between Qatar and the rest of the Arab world. It won't be easy, as Qatar is seen as a troublemaker in the region, one that supports radical, terror-affiliated groups.

"They have been playing a double game," said Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official who is now the president of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, to LifeZette. "[Qatari officials] support Hamas and al-Nusra.

Makovsky also said Qatar distributes hateful anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli propaganda through its Arab-language Al Jazeera channels.

Officially, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a public gathering that he hoped the Gulf Cooperation Council, a defense alliance formed to counter Iran, would hash things out with Qatar. It's unclear if the White House is also somewhat satisfied that the Saudis were leading a charge against supporters of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, did not immediately return a message from LifeZette.

But pundits believe Trump influenced the Saudis and others to stand up to those who give aid and comfort to radicals, or to the Iranian regime.

"I think this is the result of the Trump visit," said Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News commentator, speaking on "Special Report with Bret Baier." "Qatar was playing both sides."

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