There’s just something about an opportunity to issue an “I told you so” tweet that President Donald Trump just can’t avoid. When he turns on cable news any given morning and sees something unfolding anywhere in the world that at all resembles something he thinks he’s right about, he’s like a moth to a flame.
It would be funny if it wasn’t always other people, including our closest allies and even his own administration, getting burned – or if Russia didn’t always seem to be holding the torch.
But that’s exactly what happened this morning when President Trump decided the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf vindicated his recollection of his meetings in Saudi Arabia last month.
Over the last few days, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other states in the region have cut diplomatic ties with fellow Arab League nation Qatar over accusations of support for terrorist groups and their close ties to Iran.
In addition to the recall of diplomats, a growing list of nations have cut air and sea links to Doha, the Qatari capital, and Saudi Arabia has closed Qatar’s only land border, threatening the desert nation’s food supply. Qatar is now diplomatically as well as physically isolated from its neighbors and the situation is in danger of spinning out of control.
There’s one country that hasn’t cut diplomatic ties yet, and that’s the United States. The reason is simple: Over 11,000 U.S. and coalition military personnel and 100 aircraft are stationed at Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The combined air operations center at Udeid is a central command post for coalition strike missions carried out in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
How did this situation become so tense so fast? What set-off the crisis that now finds 11,000 U.S. military personnel in the eye of a geopolitical hurricane? In a word: Russia.
CNN broke the news this evening that Russian hackers engineered a hack of Qatari media and used fake news to “cause rifts among the US and its allies.”
“The Qatari government,” the CNN report continues, “has said a May 23 news report on its Qatar News Agency attributed false remarks to the nation’s ruler that appeared friendly to Iran and Israel and questioned whether President Donald Trump would last in office.
“Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN the FBI has confirmed the hack and the planting of fake news.”
But none of that – not the lives of our troops, not the appearance of promoting a Russian hacking scheme – seems to concern the President. In yet another unfiltered tweet-storm, he decided this morning, in the middle of this very complicated, very dangerous powder keg, was the perfect time to spike the football – on a touchdown he never scored, no less:
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
He followed that with a two-parter, saying, “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!”
These tweets show Trump taking credit for creating a diplomatic rift between two of our Middle Eastern allies – one of which houses a major US military base – and playing right into Russia’s hands.
The Russian Federation’s coalition with the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Iran is jostling for power with the Gulf state coalition which funds and supplies both the Free Syrian Army and jihadi groups like Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighting against Assad for control of Syria.
By splitting Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Russia has just forced the United States to choose sides between the nation which just invited Trump for sword-dancing or the nation that houses the heart of America’s military operation in the Middle East.
Trump has just blundered his way into the most serious diplomatic crisis of his young administration – and has already proven himself to be incapable of handling it properly.
The only question we must ask ourselves is whether his complicity stems from intent or incompetence.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.