Even as the world's attention turns to the Comey testimony for the next few hours, the Qatar diplomatic crisis (where CNN's "report" of Russian hacking now appears long forgotten) continues, and moments ago a barrage of headlines from Qatar suggests that the small nation, which may or may not be preparing for military action, is happy to welcome the Turkish troops that will be arriving soon as reported yesterday, with its foreign minister stating that "we are not ready to surrender and will never compromise the independence of our foreign policy." Also, and perhaps even more critically, Qatar - whose foreign minister is set to fly to Moscow on Saturday - also announced that Iran is ready to help with food and that three of Iran's ports will be designated for use for Qatar.
# From the wires:
*QATAR FM SAYS IRAN SAID THEY ARE READY TO HELP QATAR WITH FOOD & 3 OF THEIR PORTS WILL BE DESIGNATED FOR QATAR: RTRS.
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS WE ARE NOT READY TO SURRENDER AND WILL NEVER COMPROMISE THE INDEPENDENCE OF OUR FOREIGN POLICY: RTRS.
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TURKISH TROOPS COMING TO QATAR IS FOR THE SAKE OF THE SECURITY OF THE ENTIRE REGION: RTRS.
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS WE RESPECT THE LNG AGREEMENTS WE HAVE SIGNED WITH THE UAE
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER AL THANI: WE DON'T KNOW HOW THE RECONCILIATION WILL TAKE PLACE: BBG
There was a hint that Qatar can cripple its neighbors' energy infrastructure, if the situation escalates further:
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 40 PERCENT OF UAE POWER DEPENDS ON THE NATURAL GAS OF QATAR
As to the "ultimatum" issued by Saudi Arabia, and the demand list submitted by the Saudi coalition nations reported yesterday by the WSJ, Qatar appears to not have seen it yet.
*QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS THERE ARE NO CLEAR DEMANDS YET, WE ARE WAITING FOR THAT
# Meanwhile, Reuters on Thursday reconfirmed that Trump offered on Wednesday to help resolve a worsening diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab powers as the United Arab Emirates invoked the possibility of an economic embargo on Doha over its alleged support of terrorism.
In his second intervention in the row in as many days, Trump urged action against terrorism in a call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a White House statement said.
"The President offered to help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary," it said.
Trump, in a later call with Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, called for unity among Gulf Arabs "but never at the expense of eliminating funding for radical extremism or defeating terrorism," the White House said.
# At the same time, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Reuters there would be more economic curbs on Qatar if necessary and said Doha needed to make ironclad commitments to change what critics say is a policy on funding Islamist militants. He later told France 24 television that any further steps could take the form of "a sort of embargo on Qatar".
Gargash also told Reuters in an interview it would be very complex to disentangle the "very diverse" business ties between Qatar and its neighbors but suggested this might be necessary.
"You cannot rule out further measures. We hope that cooler heads will prevail, that wiser heads will prevail and we will not get to that."
"Tensions are still high and mediation efforts by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council state Kuwait have yet to lead to a concrete solution, so investors will likely remain on edge," said one Dubai-based trader.
We too hope that "cooler heads will prevail" and that the Qatar crisis does have a peaceful resolution, because the alternative, another Gulf military conflict, would make the daily news cycle, already overflowing with breaking news on an hourly basis, will become simply unbearable.....