Former US secretary of State prevented a major military attack against Qatar in June last year, in an act that may have played a primary factor in his dismissal.
Saudi Arabia planned to send ground troops crossing the border into Qatar, with military support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the Intercept. The new information comes from a source currently working with the US intelligence community and two former Department of State personnel.
Tillerson was notified of the plan by Qatari intelligence, and reportedly vied with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to stop the attack. The former US official went on to encourage James Mattis, US defence secretary, to draw out the danger of such an attack on Qatar. At the time, Tillerson’s persistence was described in press accounts as a “broad-strokes” effort to resolve tensions in the Gulf, according to the Intercept. But in fact, it was a flurry of 20 phone calls, several diplomatic meetings and urging the Saudis to hold-off behind the scenes.
Amidst Tillerson’s influence, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman backed down over potential ramifications on long-term relations with the US.
Tillerson has remained out of the limelight since being fired by President Donald Trump through a Tweet back in March this year. But frustrations were sky high between Tillerson and the White House on several issues while he was in office, including Trump’s backing of the Qatar-Gulf crisis.
A year-long air, land and sea blockade was levied by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain over allegations that Qatar supports terrorism and extremism. Although Qatar categorically denied the allegations as baseless, Doha has shown resilience in ramping up security, especially after intelligence gathering detected that the quartet sought to launch an attack.
The US government has since changed its position on the Gulf crisis, and is supportive of ending the regional tension. According to Al Jazeera, the US is looking to “build some momentum”towards ending the Qatar blockade ahead of a possible summit planned for this autumn.
In June, Qatar filed a law suit at the International Court of Justice alleging that the UAE is violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) against its nationals.
The ICJ held late July that Qatari families impacted by the blockade should be given the freedom to complete their education in the UAE or to receive their student files to permit study elsewhere. Adding to this, the ICJ demanded that Qatari nationals should be given access to judicial services in the UAE.