Just two weeks ago, President Donald Trump called upon the Muslim-majority nations of the world to quash the jihadist movements both inside and outside their countries’ borders.
“Drive. Them. Out!” the president told the Muslim world while making his first foreign trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this Earth."
Now, emboldened Gulf states appear to be responding to the president’s call for action.
Several Middle Eastern and African countries have decided to boycott and isolate the nation of Qatar. Saudi Arabia, which led the diplomatic severing of ties, said Qatar’s "embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region” forced their hand. So far, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Maldives, Mauritius, and the internationally recognized government in Yemen have cut ties with Qatar.
There are two primary explanations to explain the diplomatic chaos.
First and foremost, Doha’s agenda ultimately threatens the stability of the Gulf states’ leadership structures.
Qatar continues to cozy up to the Iranian regime, and broadcasts Islamist propaganda on its state-run Al Jazeera network (which is immensely popular throughout the Middle East).
Both Iran and the global Muslim Brotherhood are involved in plots to try and overthrow the Gulf monarchies. The Gulf states prioritize threats to the governing structure over anything else. Therefore, the actions taken by these states should be understood as, above all else, mere measures of self-preservation.
Second, by breaking association with Qatar, Arab countries appear to be sending a message that they are responding to the American president’s call for action, and that supporting radical elements out in the open should not be tolerated.
Qatar has long been accused of providing direct support and aid to Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida. Moreover, Doha is unapologetically supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch in Hamas. Qatar has long been home to the top political official of Hamas and the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, both of whom have endorsed terrorist attacks against innocents.
As part of a campaign to defend itself from criticism in the West, Qatar has invested millions of dollars in major American political campaigns, think tanks, universities, and other non-profits. The left-leaning Brookings Institution received around $15 million from Qatar (with Brookings employees being barred from criticizing Doha as part of a reported agreement). Additionally, while former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her Clinton Foundation received a $1 million donation from the government of Qatar.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who maintains very close ties with the Qatari regime, has encouraged the diplomacy-severing countries to “sit down together and address these differences.” As CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson met countless times with top officials in Doha to strike mega-sum energy deals.
The Trump administration has not released an official statement on the matter, but Tillerson’s plea seems to contradict President Trump’s “drive them out” remarks in Riyadh.
Undoubtedly complicating the situation is the fact that Qatar hosts the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East. Some 11,000 U.S. personnel are stationed at Al Udeid Air Base, which serves as the de facto headquarters for the United States and coalition operations against the Islamic State.
Given that Qatar is a major sponsor of global jihad, the U.S. should support these nations’ efforts to rein in Qatar and end its support for extremist elements. The embargo of Qatar is only hours old, but has already garnered immense leverage against Doha. The results can serve as a major boost to U.S. security and global stability.