Qatar is the latest example. Last week, six Arab countries severed their relations with Qatar blaming the country for supporting terrorism. Qatar has been isolated by its neighbors. Iran and Turkey have offered solidarity for Qatar. The United States, for its part, has offered two positions on the Qatar dispute.
The first is that Qatar supports terrorism and must change its ways. On the other hand, the United States has asked Saudi Arabia and others to loosen its blockade of Qatar and open negotiations. Like all international balancing acts, the Qatar issue involves many facets for each country involved. At its core, the differences between two competing Islamic ideologies – Shiite and Sunni – is the fundamental cause for the dispute. However, there are also the issues of U.S. military bases, weapons sales and regional brinkmanship at play.
For the United States, Qatar is home to the United States’ largest airbase in the region. Trump has complicated the position of the U.S. by making statements in support of Saudi Arabia while the foreign policy of the United States is demanding that Saudi Arabia open negotiations with its much smaller neighbor.
What makes the United States’ position schizophrenic is that while tensions are high and it is in the United States’ interests to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table sooner, then later, it also announced a $12 billion jet sale to Qatar. The F-15 fighter sale to Qatar makes a definite policy statement by the United States in favor of Qatar and against Saudi Arabia and its cohorts.
The United States is so desperate to end the conflict that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cancelled his meeting to México this week to work in resolving the Qatar conflict. The United States needs both Saudi Arabia, and its cohorts as well as Qatar to fight radical terrorism. But, selling weapons to Qatar at a time when other countries, and Donald Trump argues that Qatar supports terrorism is schizophrenic foreign policy, at its best.
The United States has a history of playing two sides for its foreign policy. During the Cold War in response to the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan, the United States armed and trained Afghan Islamist guerillas which became known as the mujahedeen. The United States armed and trained terrorists to fight the Soviets. These terrorists became today’s terrorists that threaten the United States and other countries. Today, the United States is intent on eradicating the same guerillas it helped to build.
That is schizophrenic foreign policy at its best.