US-President Donald Trump tries to strengthen the relationship to American allies and partners and thereby faces obstacles such as Qatar’s support for Islamists.
Qatar permitted the USA to build a huge air base, Al-Udeid, as base for all US-coalition air operations for the entire region including Afghanistan and Syria. As such, it is a crucial means to protect US national security interests in the Middle East and makes Qatar an American ally. On the other hand, one would expect allies to share interests, support each other’s basic policies and to see common enemies. This implies that Qatar should not provide any kind of support to forces that threaten American interests or those of friends and partners of the USA. Notwithstanding, Qatar promotes the Muslim Brotherhood as well as its affiliated groups including the offshoot Hamas.
Hamas is responsible for attacks against American forces and interests, rejects the existence of Israel and, from an ideological standpoint, promotes religious intolerance. E.g. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a resident of Qatar who speaks on a weekly show on the media network Al-Jazeera, promotes anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments. Al-Jazeera is subsidized by the government of Qatar and nevertheless legitimizes extremist and intolerant beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
Furthermore, Qatar provides money and material support to Islamist fighters in Libya and Syria and thereby clearly acts against US-American interests. Qatar is a small country that tries to gain influence through its natural gas and oil wealth. Critics claim that Qatar uses its money to buy off Islamists while Qatar itself stresses its bridge-building role between Islamists and the Western world. Instead, it seems that Qatar wants to preserve its ties to the USA in view of security matters as well as to Islamists in order to expand its influence in the region.
Although Al-Udeid base is strategically important, the Trump administration should signalize that it has alternatives such as bases in the United Arab Emirates unless Qatar is ready to become a more reliable ally.