The trouble started two weeks ago. Five Eastern countries – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen – broke off ties with Qatar, hoping to isolate the country politically and economically, punishing Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism. The Trump administration, with allies on both sides of the dispute, was determined to stay neutral.
That is, until Donald Trump decided to ignore his administration’s policy and side with the Saudis against Qatar.
Last week, the same thing happened: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to persuade Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease the blockade and reach a diplomatic solution to the dispute, only to have the president say effectively the opposite less than an hour later. Indeed, Trump publicly condemned Qatar – where 10,000 American troops are stationed – for funding “terrorism at a very high level.”
This week, the disconnect between what Trump says and what the Trump administration does became even more obvious.
Qatar said Wednesday it has signed a $12 billion deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from the United States — just days after President Donald Trump accused the country of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism.
The announcement came after the country’s defense minister met with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Washington…. [The arms sale] appeared to be another example of the confusing series of mixed messages sent by the Trump administration, in which the White House speaks in an entirely different voice from the military and diplomatic wing of the U.S. government.
This is undoubtedly true. In the midst of a burgeoning crisis in the Middle East, the president is condemning Qatar for allegedly funding terrorism, while Trump’s Pentagon sells Qatar billions of dollars in fighter jets.
Following up on a question from the other day, if you were a foreign official – friend or foe – could you say with confidence what the American position is on any major foreign policy issue, and whether or not that position will be the same tomorrow? Would you know for certain whether the president speaks for his administration on matters of international affairs?