Why Is Rex Tillerson Undermining the Fight Against Qatar?

Rex Tillerson
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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On Saturday, Qatar rejected a list of 13 demands put to it by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Qatar is accused of supporting terrorism, which it denies, despite ample evidence that they are among the world’s foremost supporters of terrorism. They gave Qatar a deadline of ten days to accede to the demands.

Now U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken it upon himself to interfere instead of allowing the Arab countries to pressure Qatar to clean house.

Tillerson called for a de-escalation of the crisis, saying “Qatar has begun its careful review and consideration of a series of requests presented by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE. While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution.”

The Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, even cited Tillerson’s comments in his justification for rejecting the demands, “The U.S. secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable,’” he said, going on to say that the list was not reasonable.

Tillerson earlier cancelled a June 19 trip to Mexico to focus on mediating the Qatar crisis. He fielded at least 20 calls and believes they need to “speed this along,” according to State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Given Qatar’s demonstrable ties to terrorism, it is unclear why the secretary of state is interfering and undermining a regional effort to hold them to account.

 

EF
Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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