Rogue Rex? State Dept demands allies back off terror-linked Qatar
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Rogue Rex? State Dept demands allies back off terror-linked Qatar

Posted June 21, 2017 01:51 PM by Jordan Schachtel Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
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While President Trump appears more than willing to pressure Qatar into dropping its support for terrorist entities, the U.S. State Department has decided to attack American allies in the Middle East, demanding that they immediately cease their embargo against Qatar.

About two weeks ago, several Middle East states decided that they could no longer sit idly by while Qatar continued its cozy relationship with terrorist entities such as Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the terrorist-sponsoring regime in Tehran. They imposed a massive embargo on Qatar and dismissed its diplomats from their nations.

The move came almost immediately following President Trump’s “Drive Them Out” speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which he called upon the Islamic world to do more to hold accountable the nefarious actors inside and outside their nations.

And in a call with Saudi Arabia’s newly installed crown prince Wednesday, the president spoke of the situation in Qatar, prioritizing “cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Through his social media accounts, Trump praised the embargo as a necessary reaction and pointed to Qatar’s terror financing.

But on Tuesday, Rex Tillerson’s State Department decided to condemn the embargo, seemingly directly contradicting the president’s stance.

“Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo has started, we are mystified that the gulf states have not released to the public nor to the Qataris the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a slap to U.S. regional allies.

She continued: “The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.”

Nauert then called into question the motives behind the embargo:

“At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long simmering grievances?”

There is hardly anything “alleged” about Qatar’s support for terror. Qatar has somewhat transparently supported Al Qaeda networks in Syria. World leaders have accused Qatar of funding ISIS. Its chief officials regularly host the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has publicly called for suicide bombings against American soldiers. Qatar maintains a close relationship with the Iranian regime, which the United States considers the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Lastly, Qatar distributes militant Islamist, anti-U.S. propaganda on its state-run hate network, Al Jazeera.

So why is the State Department taking such a soft approach towards Qatar? The answer may be discovered in Rex Tillerson’s history as chief of ExxonMobil.

Secretary Tillerson, a former oil executive, has long been extremely close with the regime in Doha.

Over the past few years, Tillerson has met personally with Qatar’s leader several times. Less than a week after election day, Tillerson arrived in Doha to discuss ExxonMobil and Qatar. He and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met again in September 2016 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They again got together during Tillerson’s February 2016 trip to Doha. They once more met in private in Houston in February 2015. And those are only the meetings between the two that were disclosed to the public.

As ExxonMobil CEO, he sang the praises of Qatar, even as the country supported terror and maintained its vicious human rights record.

“It is evident why Qatar is an example to the world,” Tillerson said at a 2009 energy conference in Qatar, adding, “We must learn from Qatar’s vision and its policies.” A year later, at another Qatar conference, Tillerson praised "Qatar’s visionary leadership” in the energy industry.

Conservative Review reached out to the State Department to try to get to the bottom of the contradiction between the comments coming from President Trump and from Secretary Tillerson.

CR asked whether the State Department considers Qatar to be a state supporter of terrorist organizations. A State Department official pointed to the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which does not include Qatar. CR also asked if State wanted Gulf allies to lift their embargo of Qatar immediately. The official referred CR to the transcript from Tuesday’s briefing, in which State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert attacks U.S. allies for imposing the embargo.

Is Rex Tillerson going rogue and defying the agenda of the president? Or has he instead been delegated authority by the president to conduct diplomatic affairs as he sees fit? Regardless of his motives or authority, Tillerson's State Department is backing away from what could be a seminal moment for real, positive change in the Middle East.

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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.