DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Qatar’s emir is persona non grata to four U.S.-allied Arab states that accuse his wealthy Gulf nation of sponsoring extremists, but he recently received a warm welcome at the sprawling military base his troops share with thousands of American soldiers.
Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base, a crucial staging ground for U.S. operations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of several American military outposts across the Gulf that are intended to serve as a bulwark against Iran, but now put Washington in a delicate balancing act.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut all ties to Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting extremism and being soft on Iran. Some U.S. officials have defended Qatar, but are making little headway in mediating the crisis. With its hosts at each other’s throats, the Pentagon has been placed in an awkward position.
“We’re tracking all the Gulf nations’ disputes right now,” said U.S. Air Force Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the American military’s Central Command. “That doesn’t lessen that they are good hosts.”
The U.S. has deepened its military relationships across the region in the nearly two decades since it helped expel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.
The island nation of Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Kuwait, which has also sought to mediate the Qatar dispute, is home to 13,500 American troops and the forward command of U.S. Army…