Iraq not taking sides in dispute between Saudi, Gulf states and Qatar

Qatar has maintained its diplomatic clout in part by being the home of U.S. Central Command and the U.S's largest air base in the region and hosting branches of prestigious Western universities.

Trump visited Saudi Arabia last month on his first presidential trip overseas since taking office in January.

While President Trump personally has a great relationship with Egypt's military ruler, who ousted the democratically elected government, accepting the notion that Qatar's support for democracy amounts to adding to the "horror of terrorism" is a troubling position for a USA president to take. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, expressed gratitude to Qatar for supporting the USA presence, outlining no plans to adjust American military posture. Centcom runs the coalition fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria - where US-backed forces on Tuesday launched an assault on the extremists' last stronghold, Raqqa - as well as operations in Afghanistan. After huge investments made Qatar the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, a global production glut has cut prices and driven a downturn in the country's fortunes.

Kuwait offered to mediate talks after several Middle East nations ended diplomatic relations with Qatar, the Qatari foreign minister said. It secured the release of hostages in Syria's civil war, including some held by an al-Qaida affiliate. Qatar's first budget deficit in 15 years has prompted the government to restrain spending.

Tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia - a Middle East heavyweight - bubbled to the surface two weeks ago when Qatar said its state-run news agency and its Twitter account were hacked to publish a fake story claiming the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had called Iran "a regional and Islamic power that can not be ignored".

Adding to the complexity is the recent call by various American foreign policy players and prominent members of Washington's think-tank community to remove the United States' al-Udeid air base from Qatar over Doha's alleged support for extremism.

There could be long-term economic consequences for Qatar, which would affect the millions of migrant workers and expatriates living there.

Qatar relies heavily on food imports, especially those coming over its only land border with Saudi Arabia, which joined with other key Arab powers Monday in cutting off land, sea and air routes into the country.

Political risk consultancy Eurasia Group says the "risk of a coup is significant".

While the US military has said it wouldn't change its posture at Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base, Trump made a series of tweets calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation.

For Qatar, supporting regional Islamist groups has enabled it to carve out an independent foreign policy by moving out of the shadow of its mighty neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

It was unclear how Trump's broadside against Qatar might affect the US -led coalition fighting IS. Borders with Qatar were closed and flights to and from Qatar were cancelled.

If either Riyadh or Abu Dhabi was behind a fabricated Tamim statement, it is also plausible that Qatar retaliated by orchestrating the leak of the emails of UAE's ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, that exposed discussions with various neoconservative organizations centering on Doha's support for Hamas and other extremist groups. The issue appears to be funding that goes through the country to more mainstream groups like the Brotherhood, and in principle that could be addressed. Qatar called the accusations baseless. Qatari media had also published a cartoon mocking Saudi King Salman for spreading "fake news". Egypt's Foreign Ministry accused Qatar of taking an "antagonist approach" toward Cairo and said "all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed". The details of the agreement that ended that standoff were never made public, but it included promises that Qatar would end its support for the Brotherhood.



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