A bipartisan group of two dozen members of Congress have written a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department asking for sanctions on Turkey and Qatar, supposedly two U.S. “allies,” for their support of Hamas and other Islamist terrorists (Click here to see a copy of the letter).
“Any entity or nation that continues to back this U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization [Hamas] and provides it material and financial support should be sanctioned…We also request specific public updates on Treasury’s discussions with the Qatari government on previously designated, Qatar-based terrorist financiers that the Qataris have yet to act upon,” the letter requests.
Turkish Support for Terrorism
Turkey was chastised for allowing Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri to oversee the group’s terrorist network in the West Bank from the area. It says that Turkey is giving safe haven to Hamas operatives and Hamas-linked companies, charities and banks. Hamas has an entire infrastructure set up in Turkey.
This network oversaw the murder of three Israeli teenagers this year, attempted to attack a soccer stadium in Jerusalem and tried to overthrow the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The Palestinian leadership confirmed Israel’s accusation that Hamas is using a headquarters in Turkey.
The members of Congress also mentioned the presence of a Hamas-linked charity named the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) in Istanbul. Clarion Project reported this foundation’s close ties to the AK Islamist party ruling Turkey and how it openly registered human shields for the Hamas-run Gaza Strip during Hamas’ latest round of attacks on Israel.
President Erdogan often repeats the extremism and conspiracy theories of his Muslim Brotherhood allies.
Shortly after the Brotherhood claimed that the Islamic State is part of an American conspiracy against Islam, Erdogan warned that the West was following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and deploying spies to pose as Arabs. He said these spies are trying to dominate the Middle East by “hiding behind freedom of press, a war of independence or jihad.”
The Islamist propaganda from Turkey and incitement of anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment has corresponded with a rise in anti-Semitism in the country.
A study by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) concluded that “anti-Semitism is an accepted part of the government discourse.” Media, political and educational figures regularly defame the Jews as a people and link them to virtually every problem and atrocity in the world.
In a fit of anger at Turkish citizens protesting against the government (after a severe mining accident), Erdogan himself insulted one demonstrator by calling him an “Israeli sperm.”
A Turkish polling company found that 30,926 tweets in support of the Holocaust were sent out in a single day between July 17 and 18.
Erdogan’s worldview was partially inspired by an anti-Semitic Islamist philosopher named Nurettin Topcu. The Turkish National Student Union, which Erdogan belonged to, looked to Topcu as an intellectual leader. Erdogan continues to say that Topcu is among the most important Turkish thinkers in history.
In addition to supporting terrorism and extremism, Turkey’s corruption and rolling back of basic freedom should disqualify it as a member of NATO. A Freedom House study published in February warned that Turkey’s government is undermining the country’s democracy.
In November, Vice President Biden visited Turkey. He praised the country as an “ally” but noted Turkey’s shift away from democracy. He said, “Our founders [of the U.S.] concluded that a concentration of powers was the most corrosive thing that can happen to any system.”
Turkey’s corruption rating in Transparency International’s annual report was one of three countries whose ranking fell the furthest, with the other two being China and Angola. Even a major sharia scholar is criticizing Erdogan’s party for corruption.
Qatari Support for Terrorism
The letter by the members of Congress cited the testimony of Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen to expose Qatar’s duplicity. The letter mentioned Qatar’s $400 million gift to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip in 2012 and financial support for extremist Syrian rebels including ones linked to Al-Qaeda.
It points out that Khaled Mashaal, the director of Hamas’ political bureau, has safe haven in Qatar without any apparent restrictions. It was widely reported that Qatar threatened to deport him if he agreed to a ceasefire with Israel that was proposed by the government of Egypt, an enemy of Qatar.
On September 24, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned multiple fundraisers for Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State with links to Qatar.
Tariq Bin-Al-Tahar Bin Al Falih Al-‘Awni Al-Harzi is a senior Islamic State commander known to have raised $2 million from another Islamic State operative in Qatar.
Al-Harzi also led the Islamic State’s foreign operations and hatched a plan to kill a commander of U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. He has been described as the Islamic State’s “Emir of Suicide Bombings.”
Ashraf Muhammad Yusuf Uthaman Abd al-Salam is an Al-Qaeda operative who has moved thousands of dollars from Qatar to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. He works with an Al-Qaeda financier in Qatar named Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy who is also sanctioned by the U.S.
Umar al-Qatari works with Al-Qaeda and was arrested in Lebanon in 2012 transporting thousands of dollars to Qatar. Al-Qatari has directly participated in attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and works with Al-Qaeda’s pipeline in Iran.
When he was arrested, he said he had $20,000 from a “Qatari sheikh” and was due to meet with the cousin of the Qatari Foreign Minister. This cousin was found guilty in absentia of financing Al-Qaeda after Lebanon released him under heavy Qatari pressure. It was reported that Qatar said it would kick out all 30,000 Lebanese citizens in its country if Lebanon did not meet its demand.
Clarion Project has reported extensively on Qatar’s sponsorship of terrorism and Islamist extremism. The neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian and Libyan governments have likewise accused Qatar of backing Islamist terrorism.
The Qatari Foreign Minister defended its support of the Muslim Brotherhood by saying, “We cannot say everyone who is an Islamist is a terrorist.” However, the Brotherhood’s non-violent presentation is a complete facade and Egyptian President El-Sisi emphasizes that it is indistinguishable from Hamas and shares the ideology of the Islamic State.
Qatar is financing influential American think-tanks at the same time that it funds Islamist radicals. The country has become a backbone for Salafists. One Salafist charity, named after a former emir of Qatar, is described as the most powerful Salafi charity in the world and it operates under the oversight of the Qatari Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
Qatari influence has been instrumental in securing Islamist domination of the Syrian rebels.
Syrian opposition forces yet again tried to organize into a new coalition. Yet, when over 70 groups came together in Turkey, the Islamists, including the Ahrar al-Sham force linked to Al-Qaeda and Qatar, won 10 of the 17 leadership positions.
One of the more moderate figures involved complained, “The covenant itself doesn’t mention the idea of free elections and most of the groups represented in the executive office don’t believe in the original democratic values of the revolution.”
Yet, the U.S. continues to involve Turkey and Qatar in the vetting, training and arming of Syrian rebels.
The Qatar-Turkey-Muslim Brotherhood Bloc
The Middle East has divided into three blocs: A Shiite one led by Iran; the Qatar/Turkey/Muslim Brotherhood one and the Sunni Arab states opposed to both.
There is some overlap between the first two because both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood support Hamas. The Iranians and Hamas are healing their relationship at the same time as Turkey and Iran are trying to move past their differences over the civil war in Syria.
Sudan, a state sponsor of terrorism, is also close to both. The Iranians have long shipped arms to Hamas through Sudan. The Qataris recently signed a military cooperation agreement with Sudan.
The neo-Ottomanism of President Erdogan is becoming more pronounced. On October 13, Erdogan attacked the legitimacy of the borders drawn after World War One and said the perils of the Middle East did not exist under the Ottoman Empire.
Even though he said the region is “waiting for Turkey” to bring peace and stability, he stated that he’s not calling for the removal of national borders. However, Erdogan did say that Turkey “must build the mental and intellectual infrastructure for transformation” and “we will lift the borders by World War One in our hearts and in our minds.”
Erdogan also recently tried to make Turkish high schools require students to learn the Ottoman language. The National Education Council rejected his proposal on December 6. It suggested instead that the subject be offered as an elective.
The third bloc of anti-Brotherhood/anti-Iran Sunni Arab countries is embracing Russia and China as alternatives to the U.S. because this bloc is furious with the U.S. policy of appeasement towards Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. (America severely criticized the Egyptian government for its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam.)
The Muslim Brotherhood and moderate Arab blocs are fighting a proxy in Libya. The country is divided between Islamist and secularist governments and militias.
Turkey is politically supporting the Islamist-backed General National Congress that lacks international and popular legitimacy. The media outlets controlled by Erdogan’s party consistently deride the secular leaders.
The Libyan secularists accuse Qatar of arming the Islamist militias, as well. Sudan has also armed the Islamists. The Qataris and the Muslim Brotherhood have assisted Islamist power-grabs in Libya since the Gaddafi regime first faced a rebellion. This caused the instability that has allowed the Islamic State to conquer the city of Derna.
The U.S. needs to place greater value on what it means to be an “ally.” This group of two dozen Democratic and Republican members of Congress should be commended for recognizing the reality that allies can become enemies.
If the U.S. does not sanction Turkey and Qatar, then they will continue to support Islamic extremists and terrorism with impunity.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.