Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I hope I can help shed light on the turmoil in the Middle East, explain how the aggressive forces in my region threaten Qatar's interest and ultimately threaten the US interest, and provide ideas for how to move forward together.
The US and Qatar have been allies for 45 years. We have dozens of agreements that memorialize our commitment to each other. This week, our countries met for a historic strategic dialogue and signed five additional agreements including:
- defending the cyber security of the critical infrastructure for energy,
- strengthening trade, investment, and technology,
- developing international law enforcement to stop human trafficking, and
- Continued joint defense commitments.
The Qatar delegations could not have been welcomed with wider arms.
The US and Qatar have a unique partnership. When the US was searching for a home for its troops in the Middle East, Qatar welcomed them. Today, Qatar hosts the largest US military foreign air base in the world. In Qatar, there are 11,000 US troops, thousands of US teachers and students, and hundreds of US-owned companies are living and working in Qatar.
Qatar and the US are strategically located. We are surrounded by powerful players in the Middle East. Some of these nations are bent on intimidation, aggression, and dangerous flirtations with war. Make no mistake, these powers are feuding for domination, taking as prisoners not just the neighbors they bully. The suffering inflicted by these power-hungry forces is not limited to the starvation and devastation in places like Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. The well-being of citizens within these dominating regimes is also being sacrificed in the power grab.
The illegal blockade started last year against Qatar is one of many instruments of sabotage intended to bully my country into submission. The world is discovering that the blockading states will stop at nothing: illegal market manipulation, different kinds of aggression, humanitarian assaults, silencing of dissenters, weaponizing propaganda, and undermining the global fight against terrorism. These intimidation methods threaten the success of all the agreements and investments between Qatar and the United States.
There is a silver lining to the blockade: Qatar has been able to show the resilience to survive under siege. Other countries in the Middle East might not be able to withstand the trials of an attack, as we have seen in example after example across the region. Qatar joins the US's passion for restoring regional security to the Middle East. The regional and short-term danger of aggression is happening before our eyes, along a spectrum of devastation. The worldwide and long-term danger of aggression will eventually reach countries around the globe because these rulers will stop at nothing: intentional, international destabilization of the energy and financial markets; and worse, by laying the groundwork for the next generation of terrorism.
Terrorism flourishes in oppressive, closed regimes, where the needs and rights of the citizens are not met. While many reckless leaders surrounding us double down on hidden and oppressive means of governance, Qatar and many other nations in the Middle East hope to keep developing into nations that can provide justice and security to its citizens.
As I told Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis, Qatar sees the US as a critical part of that vision. Ending the turmoil in the Middle East will take further leadership. Joint cooperation from all countries in the Middle East is necessary to restoring lasting security to the region. Qatar and the US have been fighting terrorism together for many years. We agree that terrorism must not only be destroyed through military efforts, but also by lifting up the oppressed with a vision of openness and hope…through lasting social transformations.
We have warned, repeatedly, that imposing repression over reform and development, using the law of power instead of the power of law, is detrimental to the global counter terrorism efforts. The US, Qatar, and the other 72 members of the coalition against ISIS have spent years crushing this evil. We don’t want to find ourselves in the same situation again and again. We need to work together to completely end terrorism financing, recruitment, propaganda, and extremist ideologies.
Wise leadership means putting aside personal feelings to help the good of the people. It is Qatar’s hope that the GCC can be rebuilt. The citizens of Qatar are a forgiving and resilient people. We wish for unity. We can’t ignore the historic bond between the countries of the GCC, and the shared familial, cultural, and financial ties that can actually make us stronger. Qatar hopes for a restored GCC which is more transparent and based on shared interest like trade and security.
This restored GCC would need to have a clear process for raising and resolving differences; would need to be void of forced compliance regarding foreign policy and decisions concerning domestic affairs; would need to be governed by reason over impulse; and would need to serve the best interest of all its members.
Regarding the greater Middle East region, we cannot rebuild these devastated areas unless more diplomatic pressure is put on power-hungry players; and a holistic security plan is established across the region. This security plan must find common ground, include an arbitration mechanism that gives small and large nations equal protection, and provide binding consequences for those who create crisis and threaten security.
I hope the international community will join me in calling for an immediate regional strategic dialogue to agree upon common principles of coexistence – which can serve as a foundation to healing and ultimately prosperity for the region.