News Analysis |
A memorandum of understanding, aimed to shore up Qatar’s counter-terrorism efforts, was signed between the United States and the Gulf nation on Tuesday.
The agreement was signed during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the energy-rich country.
His trip to the Gulf is an effort to end a rift between Qatar and four Arab states, namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Tillerson also visited Kuwait on Monday and held talks with the country’s ruling Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who has been acting as a mediator between Qatar and four states lined up against it.
Why is Qatar important
Qatar also has pledged billions of dollars to help businesses in debt-crippled Greece and Italy.
Qatar has huge oil and gas reserves that feed one of the world’s largest and most acquisition-hungry sovereign wealth funds, estimated at more than $100 billion. Its holdings have included stakes in London’s capital’s Harrods department store, the French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Paris Saint-Germain football club. Qatar also has pledged billions of dollars to help businesses in debt-crippled Greece and Italy.
Qatar’s political aims are equally ambitious. It has served as mediator for peace efforts in Sudan’s Darfur region and among rival Palestinian political factions. It is currently hosting envoys from Afghanistan’s Taliban for possible U.S.-led talks seeking to stabilize the country before the American troop withdrawal.
Qatar has played a central role in the Arab Spring by providing critical aid for Libyan rebels and now a leading backer of Syria’s opposition.
Al Jazeera is well known for criticizing the US invasion of Iraq. It also criticizes the political and economic policies of Arab regimes.
Qatar’s government founded the television network Al Jazeera in 1996, which transformed news broadcasting in the Arab-speaking world. The state-run Qatar Airways is among the world’s fastest-growing carriers. Al Jazeera is well known for criticizing the US invasion of Iraq. It also criticizes the political and economic policies of Arab regimes.
The US and Qatari military and economic ties
The high-tech center is filled with monitors and computers that can track fighters, bombers, refueling tankers and drones throughout the Middle East and operates 24/7.
Qatar is home to the U.S.-led coalition’s Combined Air Operations Center at al-Udeid military base. This sophisticated coalition facility monitors air campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region. The high-tech center is filled with monitors and computers that can track fighters, bombers, refueling tankers and drones throughout the Middle East and operates 24/7.
The Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing also operates about 100 aircraft from the al-Udeid base. About every 10 minutes a coalition aircraft takes off or lands at the base. More than 11,000 U.S. and coalition service members are deployed to or assigned to the base, including more than 300 attached to the air operations center. Qatar invested $5 billion in upgrading Al-Udeid, helping cement its role as an important U.S. military hub in the region. Operations at the base have not been affected by the diplomatic dispute.
Qatar is one of the richest nations in the world based on average wealth per person and has developed close economic ties with the United States, Qatar’s biggest foreign investor and a major supplier to the country’s oil and gas industry. Qatar’s capital Doha is less well-known, but it is also home to luxury hotels and high-end malls packed with the latest American fashions, fast food restaurants and Starbucks outlets.
The country also has connections to the Trump family. The state-owned Qatar Airways rents space in Trump Tower in New York, and a line of Trump-branded merchandise is sold in the sheikdom.
Why Tillerson’s visit to Qatar is vital
The US Secretary of State visit to Qatar at this important juncture when Gulf countries are at loggerheads with the tiny nation accusing it of financing groups operating against Saudi Arabia and its allies is very vital.
The feud between the Arab states had erupted on June 5, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel links with Qatar, accusing it of courting regional foe Iran and sponsoring terrorist outfits.
It has also put pressure on US to take sides which it cannot afford to do. Other global powers like Russia and China are willing to make inroads in the region dominated by US.
The current diplomatic crisis has hampered US ability to counter various terrorist networks operating across the Middle East. It has also put pressure on US to take sides which it cannot afford to do. Other global powers like Russia and China are willing to make inroads in the region dominated by US. Any difference between US and Gulf countries will provide room to these powers to encroach into the oil-rich region which US will not allow. Hence, US is trying to mediate a quick end to the Gulf fiasco.