A senior foreign policy analyst has emphasized that the US should threaten to move its al-Udeid Air Base southwest of the Qatari capital, Doha, if Qatar does not stop supporting terrorism, working more closely with the Iranians, and supporting Hamas and its activities.
Mitchell Bard, who specializes in US–Middle East policy, told Al-Arabiya English that the military base is one of Washington’s few pieces of leverage that it could use to encourage the Emir of Qatar Sheikh, Tamim bin Hamad, to change his policies that are contrary to American interests.
“There are plenty of reasons to distrust the Emir and his promises, including, his continuing support for Hamas, his unwillingness to help transfer the Israeli hostages released by Hamas and his connection to the activities of Al Jazeera. According to some media reports, he was entertaining various Jewish leaders, trying to charm them to gain support for his efforts to end the blockade. Another claim was that the Emir or Al Jazeera had sent a spy to infiltrate pro-Israel organizations with the aim of depicting them in the most negative light possible,” Bard said.
Despite all the suspicious activities of Qatar, Bard does not believe that keeping the military base in the country, would endanger its security. “I think that our security is probably pretty good around the base and I don’t think that there is much chance that intelligence is going to leak out to the extremists through that means,” he added.
According to him, Tamim bin Hamad would change his policies, when he no longer needs the protection of radical Islamists.
Bard, who is author and editor of 24 books, thinks that the Qatari cooperation with Iran is easier than confronting the Shiite regime since they share gas fields and have certain economic inter-relationships for the time being. He warned that the Iranians, ultimately, would like to see the end of the Emir’s regime in order to have it taken over by the Shiite theocracy.
“If Iran was to be neutralized, Qatar would have no reason to engage with the Iranians, unless the neutralization of Iran involved regime change, in which all the countries in the Middle East would probably be able to have relations with Iran. But neutralizing the threat would certainly make it easier for Qatar to change its policy towards Iran, However, it doesn’t it necessarily change its attitude towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas,” the senior foreign policy said.
“I think the Emir of Qatar would be much better off joining the alliance with the other Gulf States and with the other powers in the region that all see Iran as the threat that it is,” Bard suggested, even though he does not think that the “Emir would take his recommendations,” as he said.
The peace process
In Washington, Qatar has become a major player in the lobbying game, succeeding in creating a fairly positive public image of Qatar, to keep the Trump administration with its current situation over the file.
The United States and Israel consider the news vision of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, positive developments to be able to enjoy some sort of diplomatic discussions at least, if not formal, the senior foreign policy analyst said.
"And I think that one of the things that’s expected of Qatar. If the Emir expects to have better relations with the US, he has to have better relations with all US allies in the region, however, that involves ending support for Hamas and doing other things that, so far, it is unwilling to do,” said Mitchell Bard.
According that the Gulf states and Israel have something in common, in addition to both opposing what Iran is doing in the region. They agree that what Qatar has been doing is harming the peace process which is a threat to everyone in the region, he said.