October 25, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to the Middle East has been aimed at pressuring the U.S.’s Arab allies to resolve the crisis in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) embraces Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi before a meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Bilateral Coordination Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 22, 2017

Tillerson’s mission took him to Riyadh on October 21, where he met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. The following day, he held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud. The talks centered around the dispute with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and United Arab Emirates imposed economic sanctions on Qatar on July 5, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. They further isolated Qatar in the region by suspending it from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Before leaving for Doha, Tillerson told Bloomberg News: “I hope the situation improves, but I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.” According to Tillerson, Qatar is the only country eager to engage in discussions.

The New York Post reported that Tillerson has called for greater cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iraq to counter Iran’s influence in the region. He has also warned European countries not to support the Islamic Republic and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Tillerson attended the opening ceremony of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He held a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, encouraging both countries to strengthen their ties and give Iraq time to rebuild.​

Echoing Tillerson’s sentiment, Prince Salman said: “We in the region are battling extremism, terrorism and other forces that aim to destabilize the Middle East. We count on our Iraqi brothers to help us change the situation.” He added: “We would be happy to see a prosperous Iraq.” Prince Salman warned that the region would no longer tolerate “the meddling forces whose aim is to undermine peace and stability.”

In an effort to curtail Iran’s sphere of influence over Baghdad, Tillerson is encouraging Saudi Arabia to make significant economic investments in Iraq.

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