Tags: Donald Trump | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | Trump Administration | War on Terrorism | qatar | terrorism

Qatar Follows Trump's Lead on Terror, Now US Should Show Support

Qatar Follows Trump's Lead on Terror, Now US Should Show Support
President Donald Trump (AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 27 December 2017 05:28 PM

Over the summer, a group of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries announced an economic and military blockade of Qatar in an attempt to limit Qatar's sovereignty and possibly with a jealous eye toward its abundant natural resources.

In response to this crisis in the Gulf, the Trump administration sent conflicting signals: labeling the tiny GCC state a financier of terror and at the same time calling Qatar a critical defense partner.

Now, six months later, it is time for the United States to pressure Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the blockade of Qatar and restore stability within the GCC.

This would fulfill a major U.S. policy objective and have the benefit of supporting Qatar at a time when Qatar is increasing support for President Donald Trump's foreign and domestic policy objectives.

Despite its small geographic size, Qatar plays an outsized role as a loyal American ally in the Middle East.

Qatar stands with the United States by supporting our military, choking off terror financing, fighting terrorism at its root and supporting democratic values such as freedom of expression, the rule of law, economic liberty and educational freedoms.

A major purchaser of defense equipment, Qatar followed President Trump's call to buy American by purchasing 36 F-15 aircraft which are manufactured in St. Louis, Missouri as part of a $12 billion dollar defense deal signed in June.

This order follows recent purchases of US THAAD and Patriot missile systems in 2014 and 2012 as well as purchases of military transport aircraft from Boeing.

Over the last decade, Qatar has spent in excess of $41 billion on U.S. manufactured military equipment alone. That is a princely sum for a country with just 300,000 citizens and a major boost to American defense sector jobs.

Qatar's support for the United States military is not a recent phenomenon. In 1996, when the United States needed a new Air Force base to support operations in the Gulf region, Qatar responded by investing over $1 billion to construct the Al Udeid air base outside of Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Five years later, in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden led 9/11 attacks, the United States launched air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan from the Al Udeid air base.

In 2003, when the US was forced to leave our bases in Saudi Arabia, Qatar expanded the Al Udeid air base and allowed the United States military unrestricted access to conduct military missions against targets in the region.

Qatar backed US interests even in the face of withering criticism by their neighbors. In the ensuing years, Qatar proceeded to spend $10 billion of their own money to expand the Al Udeid air base which has grown into the largest U.S. airbase in the world outside of the United States and supports over 11,000 US service members simultaneously conducting operations in three theaters of war: Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Today, Centcom Forward commands U.S. military operations in the Middle East from our bases in Qatar.

Qatar's leaders realize military measures alone are not enough to combat terrorism. Terror financing must be stopped as well.

That is why Qatar was the first country to work with President Trump's administration to implement a stringent set of rules to combat terror financing culminating in a memorandum of understanding signed in July, 2017.

To date, Qatar is the only country in the region to sign an anti-terror financing Memorandum of Understanding. This was augmented by an agreement with the U.S. Treasury department in October that substantially increased sharing of information on terrorist financiers and cracked down on charities that support terrorist activities.

By taking President Trump's policy prescriptions to heart and leading the Gulf region in fighting terror financing, Qatar ended decades of lax oversight by GCC countries who funded terrorism which directly contributed to the rise of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

While support for operations against terrorists is important, Qatar believes terrorism must be stopped before it starts by targeting the root cause of terrorism: lack of opportunity and political oppression among Arabs at home.

To achieve that, freedom of thought and expression along with economic opportunity must be given to all Arabs.

Starting in 1995, Qatar invested billions of dollars in Western focused higher education centers of excellence.

Eight western institutions are now a part of Qatar's Education City: Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Cornell School of Medicine, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Northwestern, HEC Paris, and University College London.

These schools afford Qataris and other young adults in the region the opportunity to have a western education and be held to the same high standards as students enrolled in each institution's home campus.

Arab students in Doha also benefit from technology that allows them to simultaneously participate in classes with students in the United States. This 21st century classroom integrates students from Qatar into the world community and binds them closer to the United States and our Western values.

Arguably, that is the reason why a majority of Qatari citizens in a recent poll conducted this fall voiced disapproval of the Muslim brotherhood and by a 2-1 margin supported an ongoing U.S. role in the region.

Qatar's close cooperation with the United States has led to multiple economic opportunities for U.S. businesses. Beyond the aforementioned military spending, Qatar is a close partner of large U.S. corporations such as Exxon.

Since the 1980s, Exxon and Qatar have partnered on a major joint venture that invested over $30 billion in Qatar's natural gas fields and produced Exxon's most profitable energy projects in the world.

But the investment relationship is not a one-way street. Over the past several years, Qatar has invested billions of dollars alongside Exxon to expand LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminals in America.

Economists have estimated this investment alone will create over 45,000 jobs in America. This comes on top of $35 billion invested by Qatar through its sovereign wealth fund and other entities in U.S. businesses as well as a recent purchase of Boeing commercial jets for Qatar Airways which support up to 100,000 American jobs.

Geopolitically, Qatar is situated in a difficult region of the world that is often hostile to U.S. interests.

A small country sandwiched between archrivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar has the difficult task of balancing support for U.S. objectives with the sometimes conflicting interests of their two much larger neighbors.

But Qatar consistently puts U.S. interests first, even to their detriment regionally. In the face of condemnation from other Gulf neighbors, Qatar supported U.S. military operations in Iraq. As other GCC neighbors profited handsomely from trade with Iran, Qatar ranks fifth out of six GCC nations in terms of trade with Iran.

Even though Qatar's economic lifeblood is LNG, Qatar has spent billions of dollars investing in U.S. shale gas and LNG export facilities which ultimately compete with Qatari LNG.

For decades, Qatar has demonstrated its loyalty to the United States. Now Qatar needs and deserves the support of President Trump.

The president should pressure Qatar's neighbors to bring an end to the blockade against Qatar and focus the GCC again on fighting terrorism and extremism instead of picking fights among themselves.

Christopher Nixon Cox is New York-based lawyer and an expert in Middle East and North African Politics. A grandson of former President Nixon, he serves as a board member of the Richard Nixon Foundation.

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Since Qatar has followed President Trump's lead on terror, the administration should start to reciprocate support to Qatar, Christopher Nixon Cox writes.
qatar, terrorism, gulf cooperation council, energy
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 05:28 PM
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