A decision by influential US Senator Bob Corker to block the approval of future US arms sales to Gulf countries could give Washington “a new tool” for resolving a “dangerous dispute” between a Saudi-led bloc of countries and Qatar, the Editorial Board of The New York Times (NYT) said on Wednesday.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker plays a central role in allowing or withholding US weapons sales.
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The Tennessee Republican on Monday said in a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that “recent disputes” among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries undermine efforts “to fight” ISIL and “counter Iran”.
He said that approval of future arms sales would be held up until there is a clear path for settling the major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.
“This would give Mr Tillerson a new tool for resolving the crisis, though the impact may not be immediate,” the Board wrote in an opinion piece titled “A Way out of the Qatar Mess”.
The Gulf dispute “shows little sign of resolution”, the NYT said. “Nothing good can come of this dispute if it is allowed to persist.”
‘Demands intended to humiliate Qatar’
According to the Board, the administration of US President Donald Trump is already moving ahead with a plan to send $510m in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen’s war, and with a separate $12bn deal for Qatar to buy F-15 fighter jets.
“But the Saudis and the emirates might eventually come looking for more weapons to prosecute that war, at which point the United States should say no. The war is a humanitarian catastrophe that urgently needs a political settlement,” it said.
On June 5, the three Gulf states, along with Egypt, announced the suspension of political, economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.
The four countries have not provided any evidence for their claim, while Qatar has repeatedly rejected the allegation.
Last week, the Saudi-led bloc issued a 13-point demand list in exchange for the end of the anti-Qatar measures and gave a 10-day deadline, which ends on July 3.
The demands included that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera media network, close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.
In its piece, the NYT Board said the demands “were obviously intended to humiliate Qatar rather than to serve as the basis for negotiations”.
Qatar has rejected the demand list as unacceptable, saying the Saudi-led bloc’s claims are not backed by evidence.