There have long been tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over a wide range of issues, primarily the contrast in their relations vis-à-vis Iran, views on the Muslim Brotherhood, and over the influential Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the region. These tensions completely boiled over this week, when Qatar found itself unprecedentedly isolated, having lost diplomatic relations with half a dozen regional allies, had neighbors’ airspace closed to its airlines, and even had its food imports blocked across its only land border with Saudi Arabia, raising the possibility of a food crisis. So far, Qatar is standing defiant, declaring it isn’t prepared to change its foreign policy, and may be turning to Turkey and Iran to alleviate the food crisis. A diplomatic crisis like this in the Gulf is worrisome, but of course the US moved quickly to ease tensions. President Trump took to Twitter to contradict the US ambassador to Qatar’s praise of the country, by throwing his weight fully behind the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar, only for himself to be contradicted by the Pentagon’s praise of Qatar.
Wait, what? Oh, “sources” suspect Trump didn’t know US troops were stationed in Qatar. Well, Kuwait is taking the lead in trying to mediate and resolve the crisis, and their efforts just got the backing of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is also calling for an easing of the blockade on Qatar. For a second there, it looked like we were about to witness a major strategic reshuffle of alliances in the region, but with the US investing in the easing of tensions, it seems it’s only a matter of time before some compromise restores business as usual.