It seemed likely from the start that Trump’s Riyadh trip provided the catalyst for the subsequent Qatar crisis, and now we have some confirmation from one of the members of the Saudi-led bloc:
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash confirmed this week that Trump’s “very, very successful” trip to the Gulf in May had helped trigger the decision by his country — together with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain — to launch a political and economic assault on Qatar.
That admission strengthens the case that the beginning of Trump’s first foreign trip had significant, negative consequences. It shows how his wholehearted embrace of the Saudis and their allies encouraged them to take reckless actions contrary to U.S. interests. Fittingly, Trump’s conceit that he had united the region’s governments in common cause contributed to score-settling among U.S. clients, and that in turn made a complete mockery of the facade of unity and Trump’s pretensions to leadership. Trump credulously accepted pledges from clients to combat terrorism in Riyadh. They turned around and cynically pursued a vendetta against one of their neighbors while pretending that it was related to combating terrorism, and Trump accepted their claims at face value once again. The Saudi leg was considered to be the most successful part of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and two months later we can see that it was actually a destabilizing and embarrassing episode that continues to create headaches for the U.S. and the region’s governments.