President Trump made conservatives proud with his speech in Warsaw last week appealing to the shared values of western civilization in its clash against the aggressors of the Islamic world. Like many of Trump’s speeches and tweets, this one drew sharp condemnation from the Left, which in turn elicited the cycle of narrative and counter-narrative from the conservative media. But like so many other issues, many of the outcomes in the Trump administration’s foreign policy are completely divorced from the president’s “America First” rhetoric, thanks to cabinet members and advisors who clearly share a different vision. This dichotomy is most evident with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The greatest opportunity to unite the West against Islamists is to join the pile-on against Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has fomented much of the Sunni Islamic insurrection and is also friendly with the Iranians. And given that nine other Sunni Muslim countries have joined the effort to isolate Qatar, this is one issue where we can have our cake (strike out against fomenters of global terror) and eat it too (join with other Arab nations).
While Trump has savaged Qatar in his public speeches and on social media, Tillerson has been expending all his political capital to get the Arab nations to back off of Qatar. And meanwhile, Trump’s advisors have kept him from designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization, while Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates banish the group from society. In that sense, we can’t even join with parts of Eastern civilization to combat the elements of the Islamic world we both detest.
The Arab states made a list of 13 simple demands for Qatar, including cutting off ties to terror organizations, closing the Al Jazeera network, expelling members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from their country, and cease construction of a Turkish military base in Qatar. Qatar has refused to meet those demands and is continuing to fund Hamas. Yet rather than joining this once-in-a-generation awakening in the Arab world (whatever the motivations of some of those partners), the administration signed off on the sale of 36 U.S. F-16 fighter jets to the beleaguered terror-supporting kingdom.
Tillerson has now arrived in the Gulf for a protracted and frenetic effort at shuttle diplomacy, as if the two sides are equal in promoting our agenda, much like he is doing with Israel and the so-called Palestinians. His office has made it clear that the demands of the other nations on Qatar are not “viable.”
What gives? Why is Tillerson so desperate to bail out Qatar?
To begin with, it’s clear that he has gotten sucked into the Obama culture of the State Department and has done everything in his power to appoint or maintain liberal career foreign service workers at the department. But is there also another motivation, stemming from his past history?
Just before kicking off the latest Gulf trip, Tillerson accepted a lifetime achievement award from the World Petroleum Congress. At that conference, which took place in Turkey, Tillerson was praised as “a man born with oil in his veins.” During the trip, he praised those “who stood up” to the attempted coup against Recep Erdogan.
Turkey is Qatar’s biggest ally and stands at the nexus of the Muslim Brotherhood network of Sunni Islamists with ties to Iran as well. Erdogan is the biggest threat to Western civilization of any Sunni world leader because of his terror funding in the Middle East, mosque funding in western countries, and his membership in NATO. Yet Tillerson accepted an award from international oil men in Turkey while praising Erdogan!
Yes, indeed, oil runs in this man’s veins and is likely a dominant influence in placing Tillerson on the wrong side of Qatar, Turkey, and the PLO. Remember, Tillerson was in such a rush to “strike a deal” with the PLO that he lied to Congress about Abbas promising to cut off funding for families of Palestinian terrorists. Given his ties to Arab oil and Erdogan, it’s no mystery why he’d throw Israel under the bus, and it’s certainly no mystery why he’d be so frantic on behalf of Qatar. Keep in mind, Turkey is currently building a military base in Qatar, which was one of the complaints in the list of 13 demands from the Arab states seeking to isolate Qatar.
President Trump just lauded our strong alliance with eastern European countries through NATO in his speech in Warsaw. Yet it was a missed opportunity to discuss the threat of Erdogan, the chief antagonist in this clash of civilizations he spoke of, who is a member of this very alliance. Now we know why. Tillerson is committed to coddling Erdogan.
Meanwhile, John Bass, the Obama-appointed U.S. ambassador to Turkey, criticized what he viewed as “an overly broad” war on terror while speaking at a July 4 event at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. Why is Tillerson keeping such personnel in the State Department when they are rowing in the opposite direction from the president?
If there was a White House office dedicated to converting Trump’s rhetoric to policy outcomes, it would clearly flag Tillerson as out of sync with those priorities. It’s part of a growing trend in which policy outcomes and personnel are headed in exactly the opposite direction from the president’s own stated views. While much of the media focus and conservative counter-focus is directed at Trump’s rhetoric, there is very little focus on what the actual administration players on the ground are doing and promoting.
During his inaugural address and his Warsaw speech, Trump warned that actions speak louder than words and that “the time for empty talk is over; now arrives the hour of action.” Unless “shallow state” players like Tillerson are pushed out, Trump’s talk will remain empty and devoid of action, or worse, overruled by action that runs counter to every campaign promise he ever made.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.