Veteran diplomat Dennis Ross warns US may leave Qatar base

US diplomat Dennis Ross.
Updated 01 June 2017
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Veteran diplomat Dennis Ross warns US may leave Qatar base

JEDDAH: The Trump administration may be prepared to leave Al-Udeid air base in Qatar if Doha does not change certain policies, US diplomat Dennis Ross told Sky News Arabia on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there’s some discussion internally in the Trump administration to make it clear to Qatar that if need be, we’re prepared even to move (from) the base,” said Ross, who served under former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Al-Udeid serves as a logistics, command and basing hub for US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Qatar spent more than $1 billion to construct the air base in the 1990s.

“When I was in the Obama administration… I wanted us to make it clear that just because we have a big base there doesn’t mean… we’re going to turn a blind eye to what they (Qatar) are doing,” said Ross, who was special adviser for the Gulf and Southwest Asia to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Ross cited Qatar’s involvement in Libya, and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas movement and other Islamist groups.

“My guess is they (the Trump administration) will deal directly with Qatar and give Qatar a chance to correct its approach and to realize you really can’t have it both ways. You can’t on the one hand be fighting terror and trying to choke off the money for it, and at the same time be promoting these very groups that contribute to it,” he said.

“So something, I think, will have to give, and I hope the Trump administration will be very clear with the Qataris and that the Qataris will make a choice.”

Doha has tried to be a “bridge” between the Brotherhood on the one hand, and the US and some of the Gulf states on the other, said Ross.

“If you’re going to be a bridge, there has to be some demonstration that… that role is actually producing some outcome… (that) it’s changing the behavior (of) the Muslim Brotherhood, but we don’t see any evidence of that,” said Ross, adding that the group’s behavior “hasn’t changed one iota.”

He added: “There has to be an unmistakable change… Doha can’t be a place where the Muslim Brotherhood knows they can always count on financial support… and have a kind of sanctuary.”


Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

Updated 4 min 19 sec ago
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Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling AK Party could seek to form a coalition if it fails to secure a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s elections, but said the prospect of this is “very, very low.”
Polls indicate the elections may be closer than anticipated when he called the snap elections in April, suggesting he may be pushed to a second-round run-off for the presidency, and his AKP could lose its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
“If it is under 300 (seats), then there could be a search for a coalition,” Erdogan said in an interview with the Kral FM radio station late on Wednesday.
He added that the probability of this was “very, very low.”
The Turkish lira, which has slumped more than 20 percent against the dollar this year, has extended losses over the last week on concern about the prospect of political uncertainty following the elections.
Investors fear political deadlock if the AK Party loses its majority in parliament as it would put a brake on Erdogan’s ability to exercise the powers of the new presidential system.
The AKP formed an alliance with the nationalist MHP before the elections, which will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Opposition parties also formed an alliance, which excluded the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to achieve a majority.
Under the constitutional changes going into effect after the elections, the number of lawmakers in parliament will increase to 600 from 550 currently.
The AKP has held a majority in parliament for nearly all its 15 years in power, only losing it in the June 2015 election. After parties failed to form a coalition then, Erdogan called a fresh election in November which restored the AKP majority.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said on Monday another election could be held if his alliance with the AKP cannot form a majority in parliament after Sunday’s vote.