The Qatar membership in the GCC and the row with Saudi and the UAE just got worse as the GCC summit in December 2017 was cut short by 1 day, with many questions left unanswered.
How did the people in the United States perceive the diplomatic strife between Saudi Arabia-led allies and Qatar when it all started? read the below.
A new survey, commissioned by Jeddah-based English language daily Arab News and conducted by online poll firm YouGov, sought to answer that question.
The results show that that 71 per cent of Americans are aware, to various extents, of the diplomatic row in the Gulf region.
Friend or enemy?
“Two months into the crisis, and given the US government’s keenness to mediate, it was important to gauge the sentiment of the American people with regard to this issue,” says Faisal J Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News.
The online poll reveals that 31 per cent of the respondents consider Qatar to be an enemy of the US.
Meanwhile, 43 per cent said they did not know or were unsure about how to classify the relationship with Doha.
Aware of the reasons
The survey of 2,263 US citizens has also found that those who are aware of the crisis have a good understanding of the reasons behind the rift. For example, 67 per cent of respondents know that Qatar had been accused of supporting terror groups and meddling with the internal affairs of regional countries.
Stephan Shakespeare, CEO of YouGov and a columnist for Arab News, says the American public “is not usually characterised by its high interest in foreign affairs, rather the opposite. However, this latest poll shows the current tension between Qatar and its neighbours is gaining some significant attention.”
Two weeks after US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – the Republican’s first foreign trip after taking office – the kingdom, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, cut off all diplomatic and transport relations with Qatar, after accusing it of harbouring Islamist groups and supporting regional rival Iran.
A day later, on June 6, President Trump said in a series of tweets that his call for an end to the financing of radical groups had prompted the quartet to act against the tiny country that hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East.
However, US state department officials, led by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, are continuing to make serious efforts to broker peace between the quartet and natural-gas-rich Qatar.
Perceptions of Qatar
When asked about their general perceptions of Qatar, the poll found that 50 per cent did not have enough information. Of those who did, the greatest proportion of respondents, 34 per cent, associate Qatar with accusations of terror financing, compared with just 16 per cent who believed the cause of the rift was the Gulf state’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which has been met with bribery allegations.
Move Al-Udeid Air Base?
The poll also sought to measure public opinion regarding the US military base in Qatar. The Al-Udeid Air Base, which has the biggest concentration of US military personnel in the Middle East, currently hosts more than 11,000 American soldiers and at least 100 aircraft. The base provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and 17 other nations.
Of the total respondents surveyed, 20 per cent thought it should be moved elsewhere.
The study also sought the respondents’ opinion about the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera news network.
The Saudi-led quartet of nations has demanded that the news organisation be shut down, after accusing it of permitting terror-related content.
According to the Arab News/YouGov poll, more than six in ten Americans are aware of Al Jazeera, but many of those have negative perceptions of it, with half believing that Al Jazeera has a negative influence on the US image abroad.
The survey also found that the majority of those with an opinion on the matter also believe the network gives a platform to terror groups linked to Osama bin Laden –44 per cent agreed with that statement.
“It is interesting to see that, despite the billions spent by Qatar on various ‘soft power’ initiatives – from education to charity to international sport – the study has found that there are more Americans that associate it with supporting terror than anything else,” notes Abbas.