Trump sides with Saudi Arabia amid Middle East crisis

President Donald Trump injected the United States into a volatile crisis among America's Mideast allies, siding Tuesday with Saudi Arabia and other countries against Qatar in a dispute that threatens to disrupt efforts to defeat the Islamic State group and counter Iran.

"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology".

The Saudi-led rupture with Qatar is backfiring where Iran is concerned - at least for now.

Qatar is home to a large US military base.

Turkey, which has good relations with Qatar and other Gulf states, also offered to help and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late on Monday spoke to the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait and to Saudi King Salman. Trump met with leaders from Arab and Muslim nations there and he says Tuesday that "they said they would take a hard line on funding extremism".

Monday's decision forbids Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens from travelling to Qatar, residing in it or passing through it, instructing their citizens to leave Qatar within 14 days and Qatari nationals were given 14 days to leave those countries.

Saudi Arabia's aviation authority revoked the license of Qatar Airways and ordered its offices to be closed within 48 hours.

The shift could create difficulties for the Pentagon.

"Many of Qatar Airways' flights to southern Europe and Africa pass through Saudi Arabia", the site said.

Kuwait's emir, who has spent decades as a diplomat and mediator in regional disputes, hosted Sheikh Tamim last week as the crisis began brewing. "That's the basic trade-off here".

The president's sharp critique of Qatar, which is home to a major USA military base, inserted Washington directly into the crisis that has pitted the tiny country against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain, Yemen and even the Maldives severed their ties with Qatar today, Doha and Islamabad have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on how to pretend the neighbourhood isn't hostile, The Dependent has learnt.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told a Senate committee on Tuesday she was not concerned about the U.S. air base in Qatar and added that U.S. operations continued without interruption.

The Persian Gulf nation of 300,000 people is now the subject of a blockade by some of its closest neighbors.

Mohammed el-Iraqi, the spokesman for the Egyptian community in Qatar, has told Egyptian media that Egyptians in Qatar panicked when the crisis erupted but that so far it has had no impact on their businesses.

The crisis could ripple globally.

Saudi Arabia accuses its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member of supporting a range of militant groups, from Iranian proxies to the Sunni militants of Islamic State.

More worryingly, food imports are affected as Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar, stranding thousands of trucks carrying supplies.

Tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia - a Middle East heavyweight - bubbled to the surface two weeks ago when Qatar said its state-run news agency and its Twitter account were hacked to publish a fake story claiming the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had called Iran "a regional and Islamic power that can not be ignored".

Riyadh also accused Doha of supporting Iran-backed "terrorist activities" in eastern Saudi Arabia and in Shiite-majority Bahrain. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, so Qatar supports Hamas as well. Other analysts believe that the split may destabilize Qatar's government, making a coup likely. "The evidence of that is very tenuous", Trager said. Another question was whether the mounting crisis would impede regional unity on fighting the Islamic State group and other extremist threats in the region, although US military and diplomatic officials have thus far insisted they anticipate no change to cooperation on those efforts. "We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences", he said.

  • Leroy Wright