US irritated by siege countries' stance against Qatar, says US political analyst
25 Oct 2017 - 15:42
Washington: US political analyst Giorgio Cafiero said the United States is irritated with the siege countries' rigid refusal to ease their action and rhetoric against Qatar, adding that the crisis has undermined Washington's interests in the region by pitting America's close allies against each other and enabling other countries to assert more influence in the Arab world.
In an article titled "Gulf Dispute Heightens US Frustration with Saudis" published in US foreign policy weblog LobeLog, Cafiero said Washington is coming to terms with its limited capacity to push the involved parties toward a settlement for the conflict that began nearly five months ago by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt severing diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar.
Cafiero referred to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's statement that Riyadh had rebuffed his efforts to bring the four countries and Doha to roundtable talks. As Tillerson put it, "We cannot force talks upon people who aren't ready to talk."
The US State Department is becoming increasingly frank about its view that Doha is not responsible for the lingering row in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Citing a "real unwillingness" from the siege countries to engage in negotiations, Tillerson said days before leaving for the Gulf that the burden is on the Saudi/UAE-led coalition to "engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear theyre ready to engage."
The siege members and Qatar are close US military and economic partners deeply linked, where all US administrations have sought to capitalize on the benefits of relative unity within the GCC to pursue interests shared by Washington and the Gulf countries.
Cafiero said the siege countries' actions against Doha puzzled officials in Washington who were uncertain about exactly what the Saudi/UAE-bloc was actually demanding from Qatar. Although the siege countries later issued a series of 13 demands, and later a list of six principles, the goals of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were still unclear, he added. Cariero referred to the words of Timothy Lenderking, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs at the Near East Bureau, who said that "what is being asked of Qatar should also be asked of those countries as well," which shows that the general consensus in Washington's diplomatic establishment has been that Qatar has made significant progress and that other GCC states are legitimately subject to such criticism too on this front.
Washington is reluctantly realizing that the longer the dispute persists, the dimmer the prospects for settlement. The increasingly harsh media coverage of countries involved in the crisis has furthered poisoned the GCC's environment and efforts by the siege countries to encourage leadership change in Qatar will only strengthen Qataris' support for their Emir, ultimately undermining any hope for restoration of trust between Doha and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Cafiero said.
The siege countries seems to have no interest in making concessions at the roundtable to resolve the Gulf dispute, without face-saving measures to ensure that the Saudi/UAE-led bloc does not appear weak in engaging Qatar, Cafiero added. The prolongation of the diplomatic row heightens the risks of institutional damage to the GCC where the council's breakup would inevitably have an impact on Washington interests in the Middle East.
Cafiero added that the Qatar crisis has yet underscored how Saudi Arabia's vision for countering terrorism is at odds with the US. For all of the symbolism behind Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, it still did not put the US government and the Saudi rulers on the same page on the question of who in the Middle East constitutes a terrorist. The Saudis are besieging Qatar in large part for Doha's support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which the siege countries, but not the US, have designated as a terrorist group.
Cafiero concluded that Tillerson's inability to push Riyadh toward engagement with Doha truly underscores Washington's limited influence in this GCC dispute and its growing frustration with its erstwhile Saudi partner.