A number of Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, have cut off relations with Qatar, the super-rich state you may know in other contexts as home of Al-Jazeera and the controversial future host of the World Cup. It’s a major crisis and, like all other conflicts in the Middle East (and elsewhere on Earth) its causes are complicated, but one of the biggest elements at play is that other regional governments are angry about the clandestine support that Qatar provides to radical insurgent groups like ISIS. For his part, President Trump celebrated the Saudis’ aggressive moves Tuesday morning on Twitter:
Trump is not wrong about Qatar funding extremism; the problem, rather, is that Qatar plays both sides of the street and is also the home of the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. Some 11,000 U.S. troops are stationed at al-Udeid Air Base, including the staff of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center, which supervises the U.S.’s air forces in such critical countries as Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. America also still maintains a close military relationship with Saudi Arabia, which of course has its own long history of fostering jihadism.
We actually know thanks to Russia and WikiLeaks that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta bounced around the idea of pressuring Qatar over its support for ISIS, so it’s not as if Trump is completely off the map here in terms of U.S. interests. But it does seem that there may be a more judicious—or, if you will, diplomatic—way to handle this fire than pouring gasoline on it.