- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

U.S. military operations continue full throttle in the Mideast, North Africa and southwest Asia, despite an ongoing regional blockade against the small, oil-rich nation of Qatar, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Tuesday.

His comments came during a exchange between the four-star general and Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.

When asked point-blank whether the blockade or other ongoing efforts to ostracize Qatar over its ties to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood was affecting U.S. military operations in the region, Gen. Dunford replied succinctly that it was not.

During the exchange, Mrs. Warren pointed toward the mixed messages over the impact of the Qatar blockade coming from the Trump administration.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for easing the blockade, implemented Saudi-led coalition of Gulf Cooperation Council members to prevent food and other critical material from entering Qatar, saying it was having an impact on U.S. military operations in the country.

The country is home to Al Udeid air base, which is not only U.S. Central Command’s Mideast headquarters, it is also the “nerve center” for air campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and at least 17 other nations, according to the Air Force.

However, President Trump has backed the blockade and overall efforts in the region to force Doha to abandon its ties to Tehran and regional jihadi groups. Qatar is looking to its European allies to help break the diplomatic impasse in the region.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said last week that Doha was working closely with Kuwaiti officials to end the blockade. Iran has already sent several cargo aircraft packed with food to Qatar.

Tehran has sent six aircraft into Qatar as part of an ongoing food airlift program for the besieged country. Over 90 tons of food has been flown into the country by Iranian aircraft, with another 350 tons waiting to be shipped by Iranian vessels from the port of Dayyer, according to local reports.

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