Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson managed to prevent a joint plan by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invade Qatar, which caused him to be suddenly removed from his post, the Intercept news organization reported Wednesday.
According to the piece published on the news portal, Saudi Arabia and the UAE lobbied the hardest for the top diplomat's removal, angered by Tillerson's efforts to end the blockade against Qatar and reconciliation in the Gulf.
Speaking to the Intercept on the condition of anonymity, one current U.S. intelligence community member and two former State Department officials said that Tillerson "intervened to stop a secret, Saudi-led, UAE-backed plan to invade and essentially conquer" the peninsula.
The ex-CEO of Exxon Mobil also urged Saudi King Salman, then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir "not to attack the country or otherwise escalate hostilities," the Intercept quoted the sources as saying.
According to the sources, Tillerson's efforts helped contain the stringent efforts of the crown prince, and he backed down. On the other hand, Tillerson's work "enraged" the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed.
The invasion plan foresaw Saudi troops, militarily backed by the UAE, crossing the land border into Qatar and advancing approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) toward Doha. "Circumventing the U.S. air base, Saudi forces would then seize the capital," the Intercept added in the piece.
According to the U.S. intelligence official the website quoted, Qatari intelligence agents working undercover inside Saudi Arabia discovered the plan early in the summer of 2017. The Intercept added that Tillerson acted after the Qatari government informed him and the U.S. embassy in Doha.
The piece also claimed that the intelligence reporting by the U.S. and U.K. confirmed the existence of the plan.