CAIRO - Comments by U.S. President Donald Trump about "immensely wealthy Gulf states" having to "pay more for their protection," has stirred a firestorm between rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi media, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir is claiming the Qatari government would "fall in under a week," if the United States removed its airbase from Doha.
The ongoing spat between Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, blew into the open again Wednesday after comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that unspecified Gulf states "wouldn't last a week" without U.S. protection.
"Countries in the area, some of which are immensely wealthy, would not be there except for the United States and to a lesser extent France, but they wouldn't be there except for the United States. They wouldn't last a week. We are protecting them. They have to now step up and pay for what is happening," he said.
Trump added the United States had spent $7 trillion in the Middle East over 18 years, without getting much in return and stressed it wants more help from unspecified Gulf states that he says it supports.
Egyptian commentator Said Sadek tells VOA that Trump has also put Qatar on the spot by asking it to send troops to Syria to replace U.S. forces in the north and east of the country.
"This is pure political bullying and military power, and now, if this illegal presence of the Americans in north Syria is going to be replaced, by another illegal presence of Qatari or any other force, again this is a violation of international law and a recipe for continuing instability inside Syria," he said.
Sadek questions whether Qatar would have sufficient manpower to replace U.S. forces, which now number around 2,000 men. He also wonders if Qatar would have air support for its troops if Russia or Iran chose to attack them inside Syria.
Washington-based Gulf analyst Theodore Karasik thinks that Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir's comments about the Qatari government falling "in under a week" is a reference to the recent embarrassing comments by Qatar's al-Jazeera TV over an alleged "coup" in the capital, Riyadh, after a drone inadvertently flew over the royal palace.
"The Qatari side in this incident pushed the "coup" language very strong[ly] even minutes before the announcement of what the event in Riyadh was to begin with," he said. "Al-Jubeir's comments should be seen in the context of this event in Riyadh and how Riyadh now sees Qatar as being a country interfering in Saudi's internal affairs."
Karasik believes that Trump is "putting pressure on the Gulf states to resolve their differences," while Said Sadek says the United States has given up on trying to get the rivals to patch up their differences quickly, since "the U.S.-Gulf summit scheduled for May," he notes, "has been postponed until the Fall."