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Trump accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism as Gulf crisis grows


America's public neutrality over the Gulf crisis was shattered on Tuesday as President Donald Trump effectively backed the Gulf blockade of its ally Qatar.

In a series of tweets, Trump said that his trip to the Middle East in May was "already paying off" as Gulf leaders followed through on their promise to take a hard line on the funding of militant groups.

He said "all reference" to funding extremism pointed to Qatar.

"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" Trump said in a series of Twitter posts.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move, with Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives following suit later. The move came just two weeks after Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism.

Jordan said it’s reducing level of diplomatic representation in Qatar, canceling local registration for Al-Jazeera TV, according to an Associated Press report late on Tuesday.

The US leader's comments come after his own diplomats and close allies attempted to downplay the nature of the crisis. Trump has now effectively accused Qatar, which houses the largest US military base in the region, of supporting terrorism.

US officials were blindsided both by Saudi Arabia's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and Trump's aggressive tweets towards the tiny Gulf country. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker was reportedly "stunned" when he was informed of Trump's tweets.

In a sign of diplomatic confusion in Washington DC, the president's tweets were followed by praise for Qatar from a US military spokesperson.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that Qatar has an "enduring commitment to regional security," sticking to a message of reassurance even as the US commander in chief gave out a radically different message online.

Davis declined to answer a question about whether Qatar supported terrorism, the accusation made by Arab states, saying: "I’m not the right person to ask that. I consider them a host to our very important base at al Udeid."

The stakes are high for the US military in Qatar. More than 11,000 US and coalition forces are deployed to or assigned to al Udeid Air Base, from which more than 100 aircraft operate. British military personnel are also stationed at the base.

Of those 11,000 US troops and air force personnel, nearly 1,000 work in a combined air operations center that helps oversee missions for campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the military says.

The president's statements also contradict an earlier insistence from the White House that the US was acting to "de-escalate" the situation.

Asked about the Arab rift before Trump's tweets, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday that the president was committed to pursuing "conversations with all of the people involved in that process and all of those countries. We want to continue to de-escalate that and at this point we're continuing to work with each of those partners".

A State Department official stressed the need for a swift resolution of the dispute, saying its relations with Gulf nations are vital. "All of our partnerships in the Gulf are incredibly important, and we count on the parties to find a way to resolve their differences sooner rather than later."

And US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said on Monday that he did not expect the crisis to have "any significant impact... on the unified fight against terrorism".

Another unidentified State Department official told Reuters that Washington does not want a “permanent rift” between Gulf countries, but criticised Qatar.

"There’s an acknowledgement that a lot of Qatari behaviour is quite worrisome, not just to our Gulf neighbours but to the US," the official said. "We want to bring them in the right direction."
Saudi demands

Saudi Arabia, which dominates regional politics in the Gulf, is demanding that Qatar take several steps, including ending its support of Palestinian Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties with other key Arab states and end the crisis.

"We've decided to take steps to make clear that enough is enough. Nobody wants to hurt Qatar. Qatar has to choose whether it must move in one direction or another direction," Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told journalists in Paris on Tuesday evening.

Al-Jubeir added that Qatar was undermining the Palestinian authority and Egypt in its support of Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood and backing "hostile media".


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Muslim Global: Trump accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism as Gulf crisis grows
Trump accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism as Gulf crisis grows
Muslim Global
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