The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) has threatened to withhold arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations until a diplomatic solution is found with neighboring Qatar.
The standoff, which has lasted three weeks and has threatened the unity and economic strength of GCC nations, adds uncertainty to a region already rife with instability and sectarian violence. A Saudi-led alliance severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar three weeks ago, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism.
“Before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said Monday in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
According to Bloomberg, Corker’s threat to block weapons deals “may add clout to Tillerson’s efforts to coax the feuding parties toward an agreement.”
Saudi Arabia delivered what many analysts believe to be 13 unachievable demands for Qatar to meet to resolve the dispute, though the demands might be a starting point. Qatar accuses Saudi Arabia of attempting to control its neighbors.
Tillerson delivered a rebuke of the standoff and expressed confusion over the situation. Adding to the voices expressing concern, Germany’s FM called the demands by Saudi Arabia and the UAE “very provocative” because some items challenge Doha’s sovereignty.
Secretary Tillerson is set to meet with his Qatari counterpart, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at the State Department today.
Another concern is that the move is playing into Iran’s hands, and pushing Qatar closer to Iran. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently voiced support for Qatar in its confrontation with the four states. Iran’s president also spoke with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and stressed the expansion of their ties, according to a report in Al Monitor.
The United States and Qatar have a strong relationship, and Qatar hosts U.S. military installations.