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    US Stance on Gulf Crisis is Essentially a Getaway Position – Scholar

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    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman as part of his official trip to the Middle East. The meeting comes as Mr Pompeo announced that he had signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar that stipulates the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts thousands of US military personnel.

    Sputnik has discussed the deal to expand US military base in Qatar with James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, a veteran and an award-winning foreign correspondent.

    Sputnik: Pompeo is now in Saudi Arabia just as Washington and Doha struck a deal to expand the US military base in Qatar. How will this development be received by Riyadh?

    James Dorsey: I don't think that the Saudis are going to be surprised about it. There have been efforts by the Saudis and the UAE to persuade the United States to move the base, but there's no appetite for that really on the part of the Americans. Their working relationship with Qatar is very good.

    And in effect, if you read between the lines, the American position on the Gulf crisis, namely that it should be ended as soon as possible and that the feuding parties should sit down for negotiations, is essentially a getaway position.

    Sputnik: Doha is said to cover capital expenses for the expansion of the US military base; why is Qatar being so generous?

    James Dorsey: First of all, Qatar has an interest in having the base here. Qatar's security and defence policy really amounts not so much to being able to field a battle-hardened strong military but to have multiple relationships internationally that will ensure that other countries have a vested interest in its security.

    On top of that, by funding the expansion of the military base, in effect, the Qataris are conceding to what President Trump is demanding more generally, including also from his NATO partners, that they shoulder their part of the burden.

    READ MORE: Retired US General Resigns as Trump Envoy to Resolve Qatar Dispute — Reports

    Sputnik: The United States wants the Gulf nations, Egypt and Qatar to mend ties; how achievable is this?

    James Dorsey: At this point, I don't see any movement. The situation that you have is that the boycott was declared 18 months ago. The Saudis, the UAE and their allies published a list of 13 demands, if I remember correctly, that are virtually impossible for the Qataris to accept because it would mean that they would basically surrender their independence and sovereignty in terms of policy formation.

    And the Saudis, the Emiratis and so on have said and maintained the position that until Qatar has complied with the demands, no negotiation is possible; which really means that Qatar's detractors aren't willing to look for a face-saving solution that would allow everybody to honour the exit from this dispute.

    READ MORE: Top US Universities Get Millions of Dollars From Qatar, Hide This Fact — Reports

    Sputnik: Mr Pompeo promised to press Saudi Arabia to provide a credible narrative on Jamal Khashoggi's murder. At the same time, critics say they don't expect a truly forceful reprimand of the Saudis. How do you think the situation will develop?

    James Dorsey: I think that's a correct assessment. So, with other words, the United States needs the Saudis to be seen as credible in establishing what happened in the Saudi Consulate when Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist, was killed and in terms of meting out justice or a credible judicial process in which not only the minions, in other words, those that executed the order, but also those that issued the order, are put in front of justice.

    And that the Saudis so far haven't done. They have said that there is a trial ongoing or the charges have been issued against a number of people; nobody knows who those people are, nobody knows what exactly the charges are; and, obviously, there is no transparency on the legal process. The Americans need that because they are under domestic pressure, keep in mind the resolution of the US Congress last month that held the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing of Khashoggi.

    So the Americans need a credible Saudi response in order to be able to credibly maintain their policy towards Saudi Arabia and defeat efforts in the US Congress to sanction the kingdom.

    READ MORE: Qatar Has No Plans to Leave Gulf Cooperation Council Amid Diplomatic Row — FM

    Sputnik: Mr Pompeo's visit comes amid reports that the White House asked the Pentagon for plans to strike Iran last year. Given that the Iranian issue is on the agenda of US-Saudi talks, what do the two nations have in mind for Tehran?

    James Dorsey: The situation that you have is that officially the Trump administration's position is one that wants to use harsh economic sanctions as well as political isolation to force a change in Iranian policies.

    And officially the US position is that they are not seeking regime change. The fact of the matter is that John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, is a staunch proponent of regime change and the efforts to destabilise Iran to achieve regime change even though he has publicly repeatedly said that he will adhere to what is US policy.

    On the other hand, the Saudis have at least developed plans to destabilise Iran by stirring unrest among its ethnic minorities. And while that hasn't become official policy, there is, in any case, some circumstantial evidence to suggest that there has been some limited effort to pursue a strategy like that on the part of the Saudis.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of James Dorsey and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik


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