After yesterday’s dramatic developments in the unfolding Qatar – Saudi row which saw Saudi Arabia drew up a list of demands directed towards Qatar, or else face consequences…which then led to Turkey fast-tracking troop deployment to Qatar, it appears that Qatar is now on high alert, bracing for a Saudi incursion.
CNN Arabic is reporting that the Qatari military has brought up 16 Leopard tanks out of storage in Doha and put the military on its highest alert out of fear that Saudi Arabia and others might attempt a military incursion.
On June 5, the Qatari Ministry of Defense transmitted a message to the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, saying they would fire on any naval ships from those countries that enter into its waters, a US official said.
Trump has awoken to the severity of the standoff, and has backed down from his previous, initial backing of Saudi Arabia, now (via a phone call with the Qatari Emir) offering to help the parties resolve their differences by inviting them to a White House meeting if necessary
The outreach came as US officials told CNN they were observing increased Qatari military activity as the country placed its forces on the highest state of alert over fears of an military incursion.
Trump’s new tone echoed that of his secretaries of Defense and State, who emphasized Tuesday the need for Gulf unity and the importance of the US partnership with Qatar, home to the Al Udeid Air Base, the main regional center for air missions against ISIS.
Trump’s phone call Wednesday made for a stark contrast to a series of tweets he sent Tuesday, in which he appeared to throw his weight behind the effort by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, along with Yemen, the Maldives and Libya, to ostracize Qatar.
In a description of the Wednesday call, the White House said Trump “emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology.”
Referring to the regional group that includes Qatar, the President also “reiterated that a united Gulf Cooperation Council and a strong United States-Gulf Cooperation Council partnership are critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability.” Trump spoke to the Saudi king Tuesday, the White House said, delivering a very similar message.
Separately, the WSJ validated yesterday‘s reports about a Saudi ultimatum, reporting late on Wednesday that leading Arab states are drawing up a list of demands that Qatar must meet to return to normal diplomatic and economic relations, including steps to significantly scale back the Al Jazeera media network. Oddly enough, there was no mention of “Russian hackers.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and their allies are also seeking guarantees that Qatar’s government will stop its alleged financing of Middle East extremist groups and sever relations with the political leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamist movement, according to these officials.
An odd list of demands coming from Saudi Arabia, the number one backer of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the region.