Alwaght – During the past 9 months of the diplomatic row between Qatar and the Saudi-led Arab bloc, the US has declined to follow a straight line of policy in dealing with this important regional case. The US President Donald Trump on June 9, 2017, harshly attacked Qatar and accused the Arab nation of supporting terrorism in the region in the highest level. However, the American real estate mogul-turned-president recently invited Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to attend the Camp David summit, scheduled for May, which will see also the participation of the members of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt. The behavior, the analysts suggest, signals conspicuous shifts in the White House postures in relation to Doha.
Two factors are seen to be standing behind Washington’s unstable policy on Doha include economic drives and getting the Arab camp united in the confrontation of the Iranian influence expansion in the region.
Needless to say, Qatar is of attractions to the West for its energy sources and legendary wealth. A couple of months ago, Bloomberg told of Qatar financial influence globally, maintaining that despite its small population and geographic size, Qatar is a huge financial empire which its global investments go beyond $335 billion. Sealing deals of acquisition with various parties worth of billions of dollars, Doha leaders have so far acquired European football clubs, global brands, German automakers, stakes in Russia’s oil giant Rosneft, several global skyscrapers, and airlines and airports. The country is the 14th wealthiest nation in the world, according to the news network.
Qatar Investment Authority, the Persian Gulf state’s acquisitive sovereign wealth fund, opened its office in New York in 2015 and had plans to invest $35 billion in various US economic fields by 2020. However, this sum was nearly tripled in 2017. Following the Qatar row with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt and boycotting the Arab emirate by the quartet, Doha vowed to invest $100 billion in the US, including $10 billion in the country’s infrastructure. The promise was made during a meeting between the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Such a promise of huge and benevolent investment certainly not only drew positive US response but also softened Washington’s policy towards Doha. Not long after this meeting, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in April 2017 praised Doha-US alliance, saying that Qatar is an old and strong friend and partner of the US. He, furthermore, appreciated Qatar’s “commitment” to the fight against terrorism. And now after 9 months of the Saudi-Qatari rift, this policy shift and invitation of the Qatari leader is an important development.
The economy is roughly the most important point of focus of President Trump. When asked about the future of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the mastermind and the operator of the glowingly aggressive Riyadh foreign policy in the region, said during a visit to Egypt that Saudi Arabia invested $800 billion in the US and the two sides’ stances will be coordinated towards Doha. This means that the economic factor very strongly affects the way Washington leaders decide on their stance on the issue. So, Trump’s attack against Qatar during his visit to the kingdom in May last year, the analysts suggest, was a move to please the Saudi rulers who sealed a $460 billion arms purchase deal with the Americans. The inter-Arab row significantly raised the US weapons sales to the Persian Gulf region. Besides the arms sales to Riyadh, Trump’s administration also approved a $1.1 billion worth of weapons to Doha in last November.
But the US has more than an economic reason to change its policy towards Qatar and ask for a solution to the rift. Trump’s view of the regional developments and Iran’s role in the region has also been effective. During past few years of Iraq and Syrian crises and the war against terrorist groups, on top of them the ISIS, Tehran managed to shine as the top power of the region. But this did not appeal to the new US administration and some of its Arab allies, mainly Saudi Arabia, who strongly opposed Iran’s hands in the attempts to solve the regional challenges.
Unlike the former President Barack Obama, Trump and his defense and security team since the initial days of assumption of power very brazenly called for impairment of the Islamic Republic and its isolation regionally. The American decision-makers, however, believe that accomplishment of the anti-Iranian goals is only realizable through solving the internal problems of the Cooperation Council, a six-nation Arab organization which was originally founded in the early 1980s to confrontation Iran. But the organization is now facing domestic collapse as the crisis between its members unfolds, something not constructive to the US leaders’ strategy.
Soon after the eruption of the crisis and imposition of a full blockade on Qatar, Tehran rushed to Doha’s help. The two sides rapidly expanded their relationship. The communications between the two saw a rise and this, in turn, contributed to even greater Iran’s regional role, something running counter to the policy of isolating Tehran. Therefore, Trump’s invitation of the Qatari leader reflects an American policy review after a failure to press for an overhaul of Doha’s regional strategy using the punitive approach.