At a press conference on Friday, President Donald Trump reiterated his hardline stance against Qatar in its current dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. Trump described Qatar, where the U.S. has a large military base that serves as Centcom’s forward headquarters, as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
This stance is backed by neither the Pentagon nor Trump’s own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who said earlier on Friday, “We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar.”
As with other occasions where Trump contradicts official U.S. policy, the president is creating a huge dilemma for America’s allies and foes alike. On Article Five, the mutual-defense commitment at the heart of the NATO treaty, Trump was at odds with his own national security team until today’s press conference, where he finally expressed support for the clause.
Who speaks for American foreign policy: Trump or Tillerson? As of right now, it’s impossible to know. This is the sort of confusion that could easily lead to wars—as it in 1982, when the Argentine junta mistakenly thought that President Ronald Reagan would back them and not the United Kingdom in the Falklands crisis, and in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait because they mistakenly thought American diplomat April Glaspie backed the idea that Iraq had a claim on Kuwait.