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Relations with Qatar key to constraining Iran

President Trump welcomed the Emir of Qatar to the White House on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump's meeting with the Emir of Qatar on Tuesday is a sign that the U.S. is "getting our normal historic relationship with the region back on track," according to David Mack, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former U.S. ambassador to the UAE.

Why it matters: The breakdown of relations within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has "weakened the United States," Mack told Axios, when it comes to handling international terrorism and confronting Iran.

The backdrop: When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others cut ties with Qatar last summer, former Secretary Rex Tillerson wanted to work to restore relations. But he was "undercut by the president" and by Jared Kushner, Mack says, which "made U.S. diplomacy in the region very, very weak."

Looking forward: Mack said a united GCC is crucial in acting as a "deterrent" to Iran, which is the "only country that has been gaining by this disarray among the GCC states," by developing a relationship with Qatar. And as we near the the May 12 deadline set by Trump to "fix" or withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, a united front in the region could be hugely beneficial.

  • But, but, but: Mack says the situation could improve rapidly, if the U.S. presented "a coordinated policy using a robust diplomacy, along with our military relationships with these countries." He's looking for Mike Pompeo and James Mattis to coordinate closely on the issue.

Keep in mind: There have not yet been ambassadors appointed to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, or the UAE.

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Behind Trump's tweet on Pastor Brunson, who's on trial in Turkey

President Trump and President Erdogan stand side-by-side outside the White House
President Trump and President of Turkey Erdogan ahead of their meeting at the White House. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In President Trump's meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House last May, Trump opened the meeting by saying that Vice President Mike Pence would like to say something, according to an administration official briefed on the meeting.

Pence took the opportunity to advocate for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a Christian leader in the U.S. who is being persecuted in Turkey.

Haley Britzky 11 hours ago
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Trump says he will leave meeting with North Korea if not productive

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a news conference at Mar-a-Lago. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Trump said at a joint press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday that if the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not "fruitful," he will "respectfully leave the meeting."