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Qatar and USA

U.S. bilateral relations are strong and expanding. The U.S. embassy was opened in March 1973. The first resident U.S. ambassador arrived in July 1974. Ties between the U.S. and Qatar are excellent. Amir Hamad last visited Washington in 2004, and President George W. Bush visited Qatar in 2003. Qatar and the United States coordinate closely on regional diplomatic initiatives, cooperate to increase security in the Gulf, and enjoy extensive economic links, especially in the hydrocarbons sector. Qatar sees the development of a world-class educational system as key to its continued success. As a result, hundreds of Qataris study in the United States. Cornell University has established a degree-granting branch medical school campus in Doha, and other universities including Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Design, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, and Northwestern also have branch campuses in Qatar's "Education City" complex.

U.S. relations with Qatar did not blossom until the 1991 Gulf war. The United States promptly recognized the assumption of power by Sheikh Hamad in June 1995. Qatar's participation in the Arab-Israeli peace process accord with U.S. efforts to foster an expanding dialogue between Israel and Arab states. The two governments differ to some degree in their positions regarding Iraq and Iran. Qatar favors a policy of constructive engagement with these two states. By contrast, the United States favors isolating them through its policy of "dual containment."

Trade between the United States and Qatar has increased since the 1990-1991 Gulf war. U.S. exports to Qatar amounted to $354.11 million in 1998, consisting mainly of machinery and transport equipment. U.S. imports from Qatar, mainly textiles and fertilizers, totaled $220.36 million in 1998. - Over the past five years, the level of bilateral trade has more than doubled. Although the bulk of Qatar's trade continues to be with a few European countries and Japan, several U. S. firms, including Mobil, Occidental, Penzoil, Enron, and Bechtel are active in the exploitation of Qatar's oil and gas resources. Despite the presence of U.S. firms in the Qatari hydrocarbon industry, the U.S. imports virtually no oil from Qatar.

Bilateral defense and security cooperation has expanded since the Gulf war. On June 23, 1992, the United States and Qatar concluded a Defense Cooperation Agreement that provided for U.S. access to Qatari bases, pre-positioning of United States materiel, and combined military exercises. Since the agreement, the United States and Qatar have begun to implement plans for pre-positioning U.S. military equipment for use in a future contingency in the Gulf, including enough tanks and associated equipment for an armored brigade. A warehouse for U. S. armored equipment was enlarged in Doha, and the United States helped Qatar expand a large air base that could potentially be used to host U.S. aircraft.

During a visit to Qatar in February 1999, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton stated that the pre-positioning station "is right on schedule at this time and will be a great enhancement to our capabilities as well as, I think, provide a great capability that we would not have had otherwise." Qatar also has expressed a willingness to host a forward presence for U.S. Central Command and it has begun allowing U.S. P-3 maritime patrols originating from Qatar. On several occasions, Qatar has hosted temporary deployments of U.S. Air Expeditionary Forces that enhance U.S. aircraft carrier coverage of the Gulf. Qatar held informal discussions about purchasing the U.S.-built Ml A2 tank and Patriot air defense system.

The United States has been supportive of Qatar's recent moves toward political liberalization. In March 1999, Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) headed a congressional delegation that observed Qatar's election for a Central Municipal Council. In the election's aftermath, Congress passed a resolution congratulating the state of Qatar and its citizens for their commitment to democratic ideals and women's suffrage (S.Con.Res. 14, March 4, 1999, and HCon.Res. 35, April 13, 1999).

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the U.S.-Qatar political relationship soured badly, driven in particular by Qatar's foreign policy initiatives and its maddening behavior on the UN Security Council from 2006-07. The Amir thought the made a big mistake toppling Saddam Hussein. Qatar continued high-level engagement with Hamas leaders even as the US seeks to isolate them, and supports the Syrian government, even while the U.S. worked to support the democratic majority. Qatar is also often accused of funneling money to Hamas, though there is little definitive evidence that this is happening. Meanwhile, the senior Qatari leadership appeared to have grown jealous of the US relationships with regional rivals (including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan) and annoyed that the doen't give Qatar more attention, including senior-level visits and visibility in regional initiatives.

The souring of the relationship under the Bush Administration stemmed largely from different approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Secretary of State Rice sought the Amir's help in ensuring Hamas' participation in Palestinian elections, elections which the Amir said he told Rice from the beginning Hamas would win. In securing Hamas' participation, the Amir promised Qatar's financial support to the winner -- Hamas or Fatah. After Hamas' victory, the Bush Administration asked the Amir to cut off financial assistance to Hamas, a terrorist organization. Having given his word to Hamas that he would support them if they won, the Amir refused. Besides his abiding sense of commitment and loyalty, the Amir is someone who wants to take action. His frustration, if not his anger, with Arab inaction in helping the Palestinians led to Qatar's casting its lot with more radical elements just before President Obama took office. That was a departure from Qatar's normal behavior.

Al-Jazeera remained a blight on our robust cooperation. In response to repeated US protests and appeals, by 2005 Al-Jazeera's management claims to have reduced the air time given to Al-Qaida and kidnappers' videos, and have made efforts to address the inflammatory nature of its reporting from Iraq. The Al-Jazeera issue cast a long shadow, affecting cooperation on a variety of bilateral initiatives floated by the U.S.

The United States and Qatar have extensive economic links, especially in the hydrocarbons sector. The U.S. is one of the major equipment suppliers for Qatar's oil and gas industry, and U.S. companies have played a major role in the development of the oil and gas sector and petrochemicals. U.S. exports to Qatar include aircraft, machinery, vehicles, optical and medical instruments, and agricultural products. U.S. imports from Qatar include liquefied natural gas, aluminum, fertilizers, and sulfur. The United States and Qatar have signed a trade and investment framework agreement.

Qatar appears to have concluded that trying to defend against an Iranian attack was simply too big a challenge to overcome. Given Qatar's tiny size, the Amir may have decided that the U.S. military presence, plus active diplomacy on his part to reduce regional instability, are much more effective deterrents to the Iranians and others than Qatar's security forces could ever be. Hence, the Amir decided to allocate national resources accordingly, betting on an enduring U.S. presence and the deterrence it provides.

On 23 May 2017 former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered a scathing assault on Qatar, criticised its support for "Islamists", at an event hosted by the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). "Tell Qatar to choose sides or we will change the nature of the relationship, to include downscaling the base," Gates said.

The hacked emails of United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the United States, Yousef al Otaiba, linked the diplomat to a pro-Israel, neo-conservative think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), The Intercept reported on 03 June 2017. The emails were hacked and distributed by a group calling itself "GlobalLeaks," according to the report. The Intercept reported that the hacked emails demonstrated "a remarkable level of backchannel cooperation" between UAE's ambassador to the US and FDD.

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with key US ally Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and building ties with Iran. Trump had been unafraid to deliver unusually sharp rebukes of Qatar. Trump sent a series of tweets seemingly celebrating, and even taking credit for, its regional isolation. Donald Trump on 09 June 2017 doubled down on his criticism of Qatar, the tiny Gulf country involved in a spiraling diplomatic crisis with its Arab neighbors. "The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level," Trump said at a Rose Garden news conference. Trump attended a meeting of regional leaders in Riyadh, where he secured a commitment to crack down on support for extremist groups. "And in the wake of that conference, nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior," Trump said. Therefore, Trump said, he took the "hard but necessary action" of calling out Qatar. "The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding they have to end that funding," Trump said. "For Qatar, we want you back among the community of responsible nations."

Trump's comments came minutes after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for calm and an ease to the blockade imposed against Qatar by its neighbors. Tillerson said the blockade was causing "unintended" humanitarian and business consequences and was "hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS," or the Islamic State terrorist group.

Tillerson also debunked Trump's claims that Qatar was promoting terrorism, by saying "all parties [Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt] have been quite unified in the fight against terrorism and the fight against IS".

"It is just another example of failed coordination between the various departments responsible for U.S. foreign and security policy," said Andreas Krieg, a professor at King's College London, who has provided military education to the Qatari armed forces. "The Qataris will go by the official statements of the State and Defense departments, as they are actually representing official U.S. policy."

A senior White House official said it was a "misperception" that there was a policy difference between Tillerson and Trump, noting that they were stressing different parts of the same strategy.

At the start of the blockade, US Defence Secretary James Mattis was reported to have been in "shock" and then "disbelief" at the Saudi move, according to a senior military officer. "He thought the Saudis had picked an unnecessary fight, and just when the administration thought they'd gotten everyone in the Gulf on the same page in forming a common front against Iran," the official added.

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Smith abruptly resigned without explanation 13 June 2017. Smith offered no details about her decision to resign from the post.

According to reports, Jared Kushner's campaign against Doha deepened rifts within the US government. A Qatari billionaire reportedly refused to loan Kushner $500 million to bail him out after a failed business deal. Kushner tried and failed to seek half a billion dollars from Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani to save a New York City real estate purchase which has caused Kushner to accumulate huge debts The 666 Fifth Avenue property was purchased for a record-breaking $1.8bn in 2007, and had since been "underperforming" following the global financial crisis. The crash in rent prices didn't stop an exodus of tenants, leaving Kushner short on cash to pay his debts from the purchase. He had reportedly been left with a $1.2 billion interest-only mortgage to pay off by February 2019.

Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general and former head of US Central Command who has been working as State Department envoy for the Trump administration to resolve a feud between Qatar and its neighbors, resigned from his post 08 January 2018. Zinni said he resigned after coming to the conclusion that he could not solve the Gulf dispute because of an inability to agree on what the mediation effort should be. Zinni was a Marine general who once commanded US forces in the Middle East. After the military he served as special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2019 18:44:49 ZULU