By Souad Sbai
Tamim al Thani, emir of Qatar, on a visit to Washington promises to double investments in the United States. Trump’s sweet words, with which he welcomed him, must not lead to misunderstandings. They only talk about business, but not about political partnership. The Emir will not enjoy the support of the United States against the Saudis. On the other hand, this does not happen in Italy, that fully accepts the Qatari line (including the Muslim Brotherhood as “interlocutors”).
From the dinner at the Quirinale to the one celebrated in Washington, organized in honor of the emir of Qatar, Tamim Al Thani, by the American minister of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, on the evening of July 9: there are similarities, but above all differences. The main trait in common is business (beyond differences in scale). The promise of doubling Doha’s investment in the United States, up to a total of 250 billion dollars, ensured that there were no defections in the political and economic establishment, appearing particularly influential names belonging to the world of American business sitting at Donald Trump’s table.
The presence at this same table of Christine Lagarde, ready to pass from the International Monetary Fund to the European Central Bank, reflects the enormous influence exerted by the emirs of Qatar in the most important systems of the world. An influence able to make disappear any kind of recrimination against the misdeeds committed by Doha. Support for terrorist groups and for the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood; the slavery conditions lived by foreign workers who build the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup and the bribes to FIFA and UEFA to obtain the celebration of the event; the destabilization policies in the Middle East and North Africa, together with Khomeini’s Iran and Erdogan’s Turkey, both enemies of the United States and of the West: everything vanishes in the face of Tamim’s multimillion-dollar smile, accompanied both in Rome and in Washington by his faithful cousin Mohammed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
However, the sweet words reserved by Trump to the old friend Tamim must not deceive. The American president has focused attention mainly on strengthening economic partnership and on Qatari investment intentions in the United States, certainly a “highly appreciated” fact. But White House’s approach is politically very different from that of Quirinale; starting from the fact that the reception was not held at the presidential residence, but in the headquarters of the Ministry of the Treasury, precisely to emphasize the economic nature of the meeting. The joint press conference that was organized by Trump on the afternoon of July 9 was an unavoidable circumstance according to the diplomatic protocol and does not indicate any communion of strategic intention, while in the Italian case the agreement includes even the concession to the Muslim Brotherhood of the status of privileged interlocutor for the institutions within the Islamic community in the country.
Therefore, in the case of the United States, there is neither “submission” nor “sweet colonization” by Trump. The American president has repeatedly said that he prefers the Anti-Terrorism Arab Quartet (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt) to the new pole of international Islamism, formed by Qatar, Iran and Turkey and united to the ideology of the Muslim Brothers. In fact, Trump sided with the Arab Anti-Terrorism Quartet after the embargo against Doha launched in June 2017, accusing the Emirs Al Thani for their support for terrorism. In addition, he has recently declared his intention to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. But the duplication of investments in the United States is very likely to avoid this possibility, which would lead Qatar to isolation without an exit. Therefore, to obtain a proper reading of Tamim’s visit to Washington it is necessary to dispel the clouds of propaganda with which the electronic army of journalists and experts paid by Doha are describing the meeting, that would mark a deep crisis in the relations between United States, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Washington maintains a pragmatic relationship with Qatar, made up of many businesses but of limited interests in the field of security. The US military presence at the Al Udeid air base serves to keep Doha under control, as it is considered an unreliable partner. Ten years of mediation with the Taliban in Afghanistan have proved inconclusive and the progress made recently is more the result of Qatar’s need to be received at the White House.
In terms of supporting General Haftar in Libya, Trump has no intention of turning back, as a large number of spokemen for Doha have affirmed on Twitter in American and British think tanks. On the other hand, the anti-Islamist agreement with Egyptian President Al Sisi is immovable and does not lead to compromises with the Muslim Brotherhood. On the Iranian front, Doha would like to make its good offices available to the Khomeinist regime, but Washington knows that the emirs Al Thani are anything but “honest brokers”, unlike the Sultan of Oman.
It is true that Qatar, thanks to its enormous economic power, manages to keep the United States tied to itself, preventing it from granting Doha the rogue state treatment it deserves. But on Trump’s administration there will be no concessions to the ambitions of Emirs Al Thani, hegemonic in the Arab-Muslim world and with great influence in the West and in the international community.
La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana