Trump seeks Gulf alliance against Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on the phone. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Pool via Bloomberg

US President Donald Trump spoke to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, the White House has said in a statement.

Trump warned the Middle Eastern leaders of Iran’s activities and threat to the region, and urged them to collaborate with the United States of America against Tehran, the statement read.

While thanking Abadi for his country’s role in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, Trump encouraged Baghdad to escape from Tehran’s influence and support US efforts to curb Iran’s capacities.

In response to a recent tweet by Trump, in which he claimed Iran was “rapidly taking over more and more of Iraq,” the spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office, Sa’ad al-Hadithi, had said in a statement last week, “Iraq is an independent country, and not influenced by any other state”.

In his conversation with the Emir of Qatar, a country which the US already enjoys strong ties with in terms of defence spending, Trump reiterated the importance of the joint fight against IS. Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, Qatar is one of the most concerned countries when it comes to Iran’s expanding military and political capabilities throughout the region and is therefore a natural ally for the US in its recently reignited tensions with Iran.

The Emir of Kuwait, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, conversed with Trump on “forming mechanisms to stop Iran’s bad intentions in the region”.

Trump’s calls come just before another round of Astana talks and upcoming meetings in Geneva at the end of the month. Commentators have said powers invested in regional developments are planning their endgames in Syria and Iraq.

With Russia increasingly calling the shots in Syria, where Iran is also an influential force both politically and militarily, the new US administration is seemingly working hard at damage limitation. Despite some military presence in Syria and support for the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) onslaught on IS-held Raqqa, the US has been sidelined politically and a weakened grip on Iraq would be another setback.

This is also seen as a concern for Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who would prefer a more visible and concrete alliance against Iran.