Trump again undercuts foreign policy advisers with Saudi tweet

Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

The Trump administration is also running out of patience with Saudi Arabia over the boycott that it's led against the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, also a U.S. ally. That has pushed Qatar closer into the arms of U.S. and Saudi rival Iran and is seen as inimical to U.S. interests.

The Qatar crisis was another example of Trump getting out ahead of his foreign policy advisers. After Tillerson took a moderate approach, declining to take sides, Trump praised the Saudis for cracking down on terror financing.

But State Department officials have said Tillerson persuaded Trump to come around to his position that the crisis in Qatar had gone on long enough and it was time for the Saudi-led group to ease its blockade.

Yet another case is North Korea. Tillerson frequently says that lines of communication remain open and the U.S. would be willing to talk to Kim Jong Un's regime. Yet Trump has tweeted repeatedly that talks would be useless.

Some outside experts were skeptical though that Trump's tweet, for all the confusion it might cause, would really shape policy. James Dorsey, who studies Saudi Arabia as a senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, cited past cases such as Qatar where Tillerson was allowed to pursue a different policy.

"There is repeatedly a discrepancy between his tweets on issues such as Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Qatar and the policies he allows his secretaries of defense and state to pursue," Dorsey said. "Trump's tweet certainly would have been welcomed by Mohammed bin Salman, but it remains to be seen what it means in practical terms and policy."

"It strikes me that the past record shows that Trump's tweets do not necessarily set policy," he said.

(With assistance from Justin Sink and David Tweed)

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