Just a month ago, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates broke ties with Qatar and placed a trade and diplomatic embargo on the country citing it had been supporting terrorism. The Trump administration first backed the sanctions, but then offered to mediate between the Gulf countries.
Fast forward to a month later and Qatar and the U.S. have signed a “memo of understanding” that outlines the steps the country will take in the future to stop funding terrorism.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a day-long meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital in an effort to help resolve the diminishing relationship between the Qatar and the other Gulf countries.
Tillerson will be traveling next to Saudi city of Jiddah to meet with foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Qatar did not respond well to the Gulf countries sanctions.
“Qatar has rejected 13 broad demands from those nations, including closing the television network Al Jazeera, which criticizes many governments in the region. Qatar has denied the charges, and considers the embargo an infringement on its sovereignty and independence,” writes The Washington Post.
The four Arab states said late last week that Qatar’s refusal just proves the country has terrorist group connections.
“Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain released a joint statement carried by the countries’ state media saying their initial list of 13 demands was now void and pledging new political, economic and legal steps against Qatar,” writes CNBC.
CNN leaked alleged agreements between the Gulf countries from the past which outline some of the points of contentment between the countries.
“Tillerson’s arrival in the Gulf coincided with the release by CNN of alleged agreements between Qatar and its neighbors dating from 2013 and 2014 the network says were leaked by a source in the region. They include a handwritten 2013 deal between the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to not interfere in the internal affairs of fellow members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Bahrain, Oman and the UAE,” writes ABC News.
“That agreement specifically ruled out support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other unnamed groups that could threaten the bloc’s members. Qatar sees the Brotherhood as a legitimate political force and has for years hosted its spiritual guide, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt label the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.”
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad was abdicated as emir of Qatar back in 2013, but he has proved that he will be following in his father’s footsteps and this has continued to create tension between the Gulf states.
“Sheikh Tamim is paying the price of keeping his father’s policies even though he gave the impression he will reposition Qatar,” said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “The crisis has shown that the policies of the father are still very well entrenched.”
One of the Trump administration’s major priorities has been to eradicate ISIS and officials know that stabilization the Middle East is imperative to obtain this goal. Not to mention, Qatar is the location of the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.
Officials are concerned that the embargo could backfire and push Qatar to turn to Iran. Iran extended an olive branch by allowing the country to use its air and sea lanes when the Gulf countries suspended flights back and forth Doha.
“I am hopeful we can make some progress to begin to bring this to a point of resolution,” said Tillerson, while next to Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Tuesday. “I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions, and I think those have been very reasonable.”
So what are the conditions of the agreement? Details were not released, but it looks like the U.S. and Qatar will be teaming up to fight terrorism.
“Together, the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information, and will do more to keep the region and our homeland safe,” said Tillerson. He also said the memo outlines “future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues.”
Author’s note: Has Qatar really “found the light” and is it hoping the U.S. can help forge its relationship with the other Arab states? Or is this just a ploy to appear like they are playing nice and really want to fight terrorism?