Saturday, June 10, 2017
Left hand and right hand each going its own way
In a normal administration, the various members meet prior to any announcement, major or minor, to make sure they are in agreement on whatever policies might be involved. This is a part og government that is beyond the scope of The Tangerine Shitgibbons intelligence.
President Trump scrambled American diplomacy on two fronts on Friday, delivering a stinging rebuke of Qatar at the very moment his secretary of state was trying to mend fences in the Persian Gulf, while at the same time reaffirming support for NATO two weeks after he had declined to do so.It is a serious problem when Tangerine has no idea what he is talking about.Other countries look to the top members of the administration for understanding of US policies. If the alleged president immediately and without forethought contradicts the Secretary of State and the Pentagon on major policy in the Middle East, that could easily bring about a needless and unwanted war. Unwanted by everyone except the Saudi Wahabis and ISIS, that is.
Unpredictable as always, Mr. Trump’s comments cut in two directions: He appeared to undermine Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who has thrown himself into an effort to mediate a resolution to the bitter dispute between Qatar and several of its neighbors, chiefly Saudi Arabia.
But he also soothed NATO allies by explicitly reaffirming Article 5, the clause that commits members to defend any ally under attack. Mr. Trump conspicuously avoided making that pledge at a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels two weeks ago, opening a rift with allies that widened after he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord.
Yet the pattern of sudden reversals in the Trump administration’s diplomacy was most pronounced in the Middle East.
On Friday afternoon, Mr. Tillerson called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue” to resolve the deepening dispute among Sunni Muslim states in the Persian Gulf. Barely an hour later, Mr. Trump’s comments were anything but that. He accused Qatar of being a “funder of terror at a very high level” and demanded that the tiny, energy-rich nation cut off that money flow to rejoin the circle of responsible nations.
“We had a decision to make,” Mr. Trump declared at a Rose Garden news conference with the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis. “Do we take the easy road or do we take a hard but necessary action?” he said. “We have to stop the funding of terrorism.”
A senior administration official insisted that Mr. Trump was “on the same page” as his secretary of state, even distributing a page to reporters on Air Force One that showed their statements on Qatar side by side. He also disputed that Mr. Trump’s comments about Article 5 represented a reversal, arguing, as the White House has before, that the president had already effectively endorsed it.
But on Qatar, a senior adviser to Mr. Tillerson, R.C. Hammond, suggested a difference in emphasis — if not ultimate goal — between the two men.
“The president is focused on ending terrorism; the secretary is focused on diplomacy that will return G.C.C. focus to fighting terrorism,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose association of mostly Sunni Arab states.
The mixed messages extended to the Pentagon, which issued a statement reaffirming Qatar’s critical role as a military partner to the United States and expressing concern that the deepening instability would hurt the American-led campaign against the Islamic State.
Qatar is home to two major American command posts, including a center from which the United States and its allies conduct their air war on Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
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