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Close Al-Udeid base and call Doha’s bluff, US strategic experts urge Washington

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson walks to speak at a news conference about Qatar at the State Department in Washington, on June 9, 2017. (AP)

The Al-Udeid base is a huge strategic asset for Qatar which it is using as a cover for its underhand policy of supporting terrorists and their networks in the region and also to interfere in the neighboring Gulf and Arab states.

This view, already endorsed by Gulf and Arab countries affected by Doha’s meddling, is now being shared more widely by Western security and strategic experts too.

Former American diplomat Dennis Ross does not mince words when he contends that, “the reason Doha hosts the US military is to use our men and women in uniform as a security guarantee to do whatever they like—not, as the Qataris claim, to support a key counterterrorism installation.”

Ross should know, having spent more than 12 years in a key role shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process.
Eliot Bakker, a strategic consultant based in Brussels, holds a similar view and quotes Ross in a foreign policy article in the Federalist

More drastic action 

Bakker, in his article, argues that “the United States needs to take more drastic action and remove a crutch that has been propping up the emirate for too long.”

Qatar has been one of America’s most problematic partners in its counterterror efforts.

For years, Doha has been insisting to American interlocutors that they are trying to stop their citizens from funding extremist groups, but they have nothing to show for it.

Bakker points out that President Trump “has already signaled that he’s done with tiptoeing around the issue, tweeting what has been open secret: Qatar supports terrorism. The commander-in-chief calling out Doha for trying to have it both ways is about as strong a signal as the United States could possibly send.”

He also contends that there is a real mismatch that on the one hand, the country hosts the largest American military base in the region, while on the other it openly extends support for terror groups. But the Qatari emir has been able to count on this for long. “By hosting Al-Udeid, his government is able to hedge its bets under the comfort of the US security blanket.”

But now with the political heat on and with the Gulf boycott starting to hurt, Bakker writes, “The Qataris, seeming to realize the United States won’t be willing to cover for their misdeeds indefinitely, have to hope some other power would put its soldiers in harm’s way on their behalf.”

Turkey, in response to the Qatari pleas, is fast-tracking the process of troop deployment to their base in Qatar.

Bakker opines that the Qataris “can still decide to come in from the cold, but the days of playing both sides are running out.”

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Last Update: Thursday, 20 July 2017 KSA 15:12 - GMT 12:12
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