America’s top diplomat landed in Qatar on Monday to take in a World Cup match and hold talks as regional tensions remain high amid Iran’s rapid advancement of its nuclear program and nationwide protests shaking the Islamic Republic.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a self-acknowledged “great mediocre” football player himself, watched America face Wales on Monday night at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
Blinken will also hold crucial diplomatic talks with authorities in Qatar, one of the United States’ trusted interlocutors with Iran. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.
Iran also provided airspace routes for Qatar Airways flights and supplied food shipments to Qatar amid a yearslong boycott of Doha by four Arab countries.
Blinken’s visit comes as part of a strategic dialogue with Qatar, which also hosts some 8,000 American troops at its massive Al-Udeid Air Base that’s serves as the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. The base was a key node in America’s chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuation of Afghan civilians.
“Qatar is a steadfast and important partner to the United States, and U.S.-Qatar ties continue to grow,” said Daniel Benaim, a deputy assistant secretary for the Arabian Peninsula Affairs at the State Department, ahead of Blinken’s trip.