Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker will block future arms sales to Gulf coast countries (GCC) until the growing Qatar crisis is resolved, he revealed in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday.
“Before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC,” Corker declared. “All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran,” he continued.
The Qatar crisis began in early June when a Saudi Arabian-led bloc of Gulf countries cut off diplomatic relations and imposed a blockade of the tiny Arab nation. The bloc ostensibly cut relations over Qatar’s alleged support for terrorist groups and its maintenance of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Saudi-led bloc have since made 13 demands of Qatar, including the closure of Qatari media organization Al Jazeera, cessation of its contact with the Muslim brotherhood, and the removal of Turkish troops from its soil. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to support the demands saying Friday “while some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution.”
Corker’s demands are likely to spur increased discussion between Qatar and the Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. announced a $350 billion arms sales in late May and the Saudi government relies heavily on continued U.S. support.
Critics of the Saudi bloc say their aggressive actions are an attempt to muzzle Qatar’s independent foreign policy. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly clashed in the past over Al-Jazeera’s criticism of the Saudi royal family and Qatar’s relations with Islamist political movements.
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