White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer actually stated something true at his contentious press briefing on May 30. He said Donald Trump’s first overseas trip was “unprecedented.” The trouble for Trump and Spicer is that the trip was “unprecedented” but not in a way that could be considered a success for the president.
Trump set out to create an “Arab NATO” among U.S. allies in the Middle East. Instead, in the wake of his visit, Saudi Arabia, joined by the United Arab Emirates, is in a diplomatic battle with Qatar over reports that Qatar views Iran, the Saudis’ bitter enemy, as a regional “giant.” The Saudis and Emiratis have withdrawn their ambassadors from Doha and have blocked Internet access to Qatari news sites, including Al Jazeera. Egypt, a prospective member of Trump’s “Arab NATO,” has joined the Saudis and UAE in blocking access to Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Kuwait has irritated the Saudis and Emiratis by trying to play neutral intermediary between Qatar and Saudi Arabia/UAE. Bahrain, whose repressive Wahhabist regime Trump praised during the U.S.-Muslim summit in Riyadh, has affirmed its alliance with the Saudis by blocking access to Al Jazeera and recalling its ambassador to Qatar.
Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani has also angered Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt by reportedly telling Qatar national service recruits that Qatar supported both Hamas and Hezbollah. The Saudis and its allies, including Egypt, have long argued that Qatar’s government is dominated by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. The Trump administration, which has cast its lot with the Saudis, is reportedly considering sanctions against Qatar for its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. But the U.S. tilt in favor of the Saudis has put in jeopardy the continued use of Qatar’s massive Al Udeid airbase as the headquarters for the U.S. Central Command’s forward operations in the region. Qatar has accused the Saudis of using its clout with the Trump administration to wage an anti-Qatar propaganda campaign in Washington.
A reported secret meeting held last week in Baghdad between Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani and Qasim Sulaiman, a senior military official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Quds force, has further inflamed relations between the Qataris and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Oman has, like Kuwait, refused take sides in the feud between Riyadh and Doha. Oman has close economic ties with Iran.
The Al-Shaikh family of Saudi Arabia, which claims to be direct descendants of the founder of Wahhabism, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, have demanded that Qatar change the name of the largest mosque in Qatar, the Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque, named for the founder of Wahhabism.
Quiet support for Qatar has come from Pakistan. The Saudis angered Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who traveled to the Riyadh summit only to discover that Saudi King Salman had not included a Trump-Sharif bilateral meeting on the agenda. Salman later apologized to Sharif but it was too late. The Pakistani media were given the green light to call the Riyadh summit with Trump the “theater of the absurd.” Pakistan also ordered General Rahul Sharif to return home from Saudi Arabia. General Sharif was Pakistan’s representative to the Islamic Military Alliance in Riyadh, the embryonic Middle Eastern “NATO” foreseen by Trump.
Although the Saudis and Emiratis appear to be on the same page vis-a-vis Qatar, they are not when it comes to the civil war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi has broken with Riyadh and is supporting factions in the war that favor independence for South Yemen, something the Saudis vigorously oppose.
Simply stated, Trump’s idea of an “Arab NATO” now lies in tatters and its prospective members are now at each other’s throats.
NATO is no different in the wake of Trump’s attendance at the organization’s summit in Brussels. Montenegro’s opposition, which was against the nation becoming the newest member of NATO, is fuming over Trump’s shoving of Montenegro’s pro-NATO Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. During a May 25 photo op in Brussels, Trump infamously shoved Markovic out of the way so that he could stand in front of the other NATO leaders for cameras. Markovic dismissed Trump’s shove as “harmless” but the Montenegrin pro-Russian opposition jumped on it as an insult to Montenegro. The country’s opposition Democratic Front lambasted Markovic for “justifying” Trump’s aggressive behavior. The Russian news agency TASS reported from Montenegro that a number of Montenegrins were demanding that sanctions be imposed against the United States for “humiliating” Markovic. Montenegro is scheduled to formally become a NATO member on June 5.
The emerging “Trump Doctrine,” which is essentially a vacuous collection of disjointed and airy policy statements, is fracturing age-old alliances and creating new ones. In the wake of the bitter feud between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a new alliance appears to be forming between Germany and France, one that may see France jointly operating an independent nuclear strike force with Berlin. Many observers suspect that the non-doctrinal “Trump Doctrine” is actually the work of Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has eclipsed the more globalist-inclined Jared Kushner in wielding greater influence over Trump in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Senator John McCain is traveling the world and speaking with foreign governments offering his own globalist U.S. foreign policy. That has led some Trump administration officials to consider charging McCain with criminal violation of 18 U.S.C. § 953, the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating independently with foreign governments.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2017 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).