It’s been well over two years since the Qatar blockade started, one of many regional policy fiascos launched by Saudi Arabia, which even its closest allies have admitted has massively backfired – but the Emir’s recent visit to Washington is a turning point which not only shows how valuable Qatar is to Donald Trump but what an outstanding error of judgment on Trump’s part to go along with it was in the first place.
In fact, what we know now is that Trump agreed to go along with the ruse in May and June of 2017 because he had just received a cash gift of 2.5m dollars from the UAE leader, via his chief fundraiser Elliot Broidy and Middle East fixer George Nader.
The recent Mueller report in America exposed the Lebanese businessman’s dirty work, commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) to send the money to the US president in return for a number of policy decisions in the region; Qatar blockade was one, which he claimed just a few days after returning from the summit in Riyadh with King Salman in May of 2017, was in fact his own brainchild. Others include special arms deals to the Saudis being unblocked including nukes to the Saudis and – possibly – even the decision to launch strikes against Iran after the drone incident, which Trump came very close to doing.
But the Qatar blockade, which most blamed the Saudis for as a decision based on rank stupidity, was actually Trump’s which is why Riyadh had the unsettling confidence to do it, in the first place.
Since the arrest of George Nader on June 3 in New York relating to child porn offences – and his story being unearthed by investigative journalists – we are witnessing a wising up of Trump. We can only speculate how much money has been funnelled to him from MBZ and MBS in Saudi Arabia (for sure it’s far more than merely 2.5m USD) but what is clearer is that on June 21st when he pulled back from launching retaliatory strikes against Iran, he realised he was about to fall into a trap – perhaps created by the neocons (to go ahead with a war with Iran) and possibly even Saudi Arabia and UAE, who would dearly love the US to war with Iran, while they both keep a safe distance.
The objectives of that entire cabal, was for Trump to lose his re-election bid in 2020.
But the Qatar blockade is interesting and was seen as a major victory of a middle eastern leader to pull off such a stunt whereby a US president would accommodate whoever was paying, with a policy decision.
Quite apart from the stunt massively backfiring on so many levels, in particular against Saudi Arabia geopolitically (but also to some extent financially the UAE), what we are witnessing now is a new significance and importance to Trump and his administration of this tiny gas-rich country.
Trump does not need warmongers in the Middle East but peace brokers who can pull him out of a hole and win him votes in 2020. Where the UAE and Saudi Arabia patently can’t do that, the bandwidth is taken up by Qatar who is showing sterling signs that it punches above its weight in the region.
In July 2018 Trump instructed his advisors in Afghanistan to pull out all the stops and begin talks with the Taliban, which, quite apart from having an office in Qatar since 2013, is connected in many ways with the country’s rulers. Indeed, Qatar (as well as Germany) has been playing an important role of back channel communicator for quite a while and the Emir’s arrival in Washington on July 8th, to be welcomed by Trump personally at a black tie dinner, gives a lucid clue to onlookers who seek to identify any logic to Trump’s tumultuous attempts at off-the-hoof-diplomacy in the region. Trump has had his fingers burnt by the MBZ/MBS experience which may have filled his coffers with re-election funding but came at a very high price indeed, almost costing him the presidency as he came within a whisker of pressing the Iran war button. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is a cool player who prefers peace in the region rather than escalated tensions as a business model. He may well just be Trump’s new partner in the Middle East as if he can give a face saving exit in Afghanistan then Trump will certainly look to him to find a solution in Iran too, which Al Thani is even better placed to do.