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The One Phone Call Qatar Desperately Wants Donald Trump to Make

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The One Phone Call Qatar Desperately Wants Donald Trump to Make


For months, America has been caught in the middle of an ugly family feud in the Persian Gulf. A Global POLITICO debrief on the crisis with one of Qatar’s leaders.

Top officials from the tiny, embattled Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar came to Washington this week with a simple message to President Donald Trump: You can solve the regional crisis that has seen it blockaded by all their neighbors with a single phone call.

“The sooner, the better, the phone call,” says Qatar’s deputy prime minister and defense minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah in an exclusive interview for The Global POLITICO, his first extensive comments to a U.S. journalist since the crisis began.

But Trump hasn’t made the call yet even as America has been dragged right into the middle of what Al Attiyah calls this “family feud” in the Persian Gulf.

For months, Washington has watched with a combination of dismay and concern as the princely leaders of the Gulf have erupted against each other, with several major U.S. allies in the region—Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—teaming up to impose a blockade on their neighbor Qatar.

Qatar is also a key U.S. ally—and in fact hosts the largest American military base in the region, Al Udeid. Since the crisis, Qatar has been literally cut off from its main landline to the rest of the world through Saudi Arabia, and has turned increasingly to U.S. adversaries like Iran and Russia.

In other words, it’s a geopolitical nightmare for America in the midst of the already volatile Middle East.

On top of all that, the crisis exposed fissures and fault lines between Trump and his national security team, with Trump early on tweeting his way right into the middle of the crisis—on the side of Qatar’s enemies—even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to calm tensions.

Months later, diplomacy has failed, Trump is no longer tweeting about it, and many of Qatar’s top officials were in Washington this week to lobby the administration on their behalf after a friendly phone call between Trump and their leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, earlier this month.

Tillerson and Mattis “gave them a great welcome, and the Qataris must think it’s Christmas here in Washington for them,” says Simon Henderson, a veteran Gulf watcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Back when the crisis erupted, it seemed that Trump had anointed the Saudi-Emirati perspective. Now they’ve recalibrated a bit.”

Read more… POLITICO

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