March 12, 2014 | Quote
Strained Relations Within GCC Affect US Security Interests
The diplomatic rift between Qatar and its GCC neighbours has raised concerns in Washington over the effect on US regional security interests.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain last week withdrew their ambassadors from Doha after accusing Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, of failing to implement an agreement not to interfere in their internal affairs.
Qatar’s foreign policy and its support for Islamist militant groups has long unnerved the Obama administration, but Washington’s primary concern with the split between its key Arabian Gulf allies is what it will mean for the GCC.
“Security relationships take a lot of political will to re-evaluate, and Washington today seems to have very little interest in using money or troops to substitute for Qatar in the region, even if the Qataris do things that give us rather persistent heartburn,” said David Weinberg, senior fellow focusing on the Gulf at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“The recent designation of Al Nuaimi,” who was well known to the Qatari government, “is indicative of the fact that there are real problems going on,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s security studies programme.
Qatar’s funding of extremists rebels during the 2011 uprising against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi also raised tensions with the US.
However, Qatar’s support of Muslim Brotherhood parties across the Middle East and North Africa is less concerning to Washington, which does not view the group as a terrorist organisation.
The US “tends to see actors through the prism of material interests, but the UAE and Saudi probably see Qatari policies as being more ideological than we do,” Mr Gartenstein-Ross said.
“And as a result they have different perceptions of what the US should be doing.”