Questioning Qatar’s Terror Financing? Here Are the Facts

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C)
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) (Photo: AHMAD AL-GHAMDI/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 43 Al-Qaeda operatives in Qatar were designated by the state media in the United Arab Emirates, according to a list provided to the Clarion Project. The important research arrives as four Arab countries issued 13 demands to Qatar over its support of terrorism, extremism, Iran and Turkey.

Saudi, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain all designated the entities listed as terror operatives.

The list is available at the end of this article.

“The long list of specially-designated terror financiers has a common denominator: the most prolific, wide ranging, and dangerous financial and logistical facilitators tend to have a Qatar connection,” said Oubai Shahbandar, who compiled an analysis of the operatives and is an international security program fellow for New America and a former Defense Department foreign affairs adviser.

Shahbandar said, “Most disturbingly, some of the most top-ranking Al-Qaeda financiers had recent relationships with the Qatari central bank. The sheer volume of Qatari-linked designated terror financiers indicates that Doha has done next to nothing to curb the flow of cash into the hands of Al-Qaeda cells from Pakistan to Syria to North Africa.”

Indeed, the list shows identified individuals and entities in Qatar that provided material support to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor to ISIS), Al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Identified operatives were also active with Al-Qaeda in Libya.

In fact, Qatar is so hospitable to Al-Qaeda that Osama Bin Laden advised his son, Hamza, to move there as he prepared to step into his father’s shoes. Hamza Bin Laden is now a top threat to the U.S.

The most striking part of the list is that a majority of the designated terrorists have served as officials with the Qatari government or have extremely close ties to Qatari leaders. Others were or are currently leaders in prominent organizations that deal with the government regularly.

CNN’s Erin Burnett recently wiped the floor with the Qatari ambassador in his first interview after the crisis began, pointing out that Al-Qaeda financier Saad bin Saad al-Kaabi was openly raising money in Doha and tweeting pictures of the 9/11 attacks.

David Reaboi of the Security Studies Group pointed out that Qatar is a safe home for former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi (one of the most influential jihadist preachers in the world) and at least seven Al-Qaeda financiers and three Taliban operatives.

It’s not just Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, either. Qatar is a known sponsor of Hamas as well as he overall Islamist infrastructure worldwide. Former Treasury department Jonathan Schanzer describes Qatar as the “ATM” for the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014, former Israeli President Shimon Peres said Qatar is “world’s largest funder of terror.”

In 2011, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, then emir of Qatar, publicly pledged to “spare no effort” to promote the teachings of Muhammad al-Wahhab, the founder of a radical strain of Islam known as “Wahhabism.” He said that Qatar was founded on Wahhab’s preaching and the government would continue distributing his works around the world. It has also even produced propaganda videos for children glorifying Islamic conquests.

There is a bipartisan consensus that Qatar is an undesignated sponsor of terrorism. When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said in a 2009 memo that the country’s record on terrorism is the “worst in the region.” In 2014, a bipartisan group of two dozen congressmen called on the U.S. government to sanction Qataris supporting terrorism.

The West has been putting up with this duplicity for far, far too long, especially from a country that is protected by the U.S. military and is a mere speck on the map with a population of only two million.

Qatar’s support of jihad, which is tantamount to waging war on us, has been responded to with reassurances from the U.S. government that they are an “ally.” There has been no public consideration of moving the U.S. military base out of the country.

American taxpayer money was even used to fund a program with Qatar and Turkey to promote “nonviolence” in the Muslim world. And somehow, the Qatar Foundation’s ties to jihad didn’t prevent it from being chosen by Michelle Obama as the proper place to address women’s rights.

Qatar’s Arab neighbors stepped up to the plate following President Trump’s speech in Riyadh. It seems forgotten that some of these countries previously confronted Qatar under the Obama Administration, only to pull back under U.S. pressure.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have published a list of 59 people and 12 institutions based in Qatar who are funding terrorism and extremism. Libya followed with a list of 75 people and nine entities.

The Arab countries are well aware of Qatar’s support of the Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and similar jihadists because they are the ones who suffer the most severe consequences of it. Qatar has backed the Islamists in the civil war in Libya and is currently backing Syrian Islamists. Non-Islamist elements that fight Qaddafi and Assad have to contend with both the dictators and the Islamist opposition.

Libya’s military leadership accuses Qatar of assassinating a senior rebel leader who was secular after he confronted the Qataris about their efforts to empower Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. The Libyan army says it will bring Qatar to the International Criminal Court for the murder, as well as trying to kill the leader of the Libyan National Army.

The Libyan army has published a document that it claims shows Qatar was coordinating with Turkey to move almost 2,000 jihadists from Libya to Iraq in September 2012.

Qatar incriminated itself by using Al-Jazeera to distribute a fatwa issued by an Al-Qaeda financier harbored by the Qatari government, as reported by David Weinberg of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The cleric, Hamid Abdallah Ahmad al-Ali, even spoke at the Grand Mosque in 2013 that is controlled by the Qatari government—even as the U.S. and U.N. blacklisted him for financing terrorism.

The Qatari government is also a sponsor of Islamism in America. The Libyan government’s list of Qatar-linked Islamists includes U.S.-based activist Esam Omeish who used to be the president of the Muslim American Society, the “overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Omeish is heavily involved with Libyan Islamists.  He is also on the board of directors of the radical Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia.

Qatar has donated to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an identified Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator in a trial for Hamas financing. The support amounts to at least $405,000 over five years.

The Qatar Foundation, an entity linked to both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas-financing spiritual leader, is linked to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), another Brotherhood entity Virginia. It came under investigation for possible terrorism-financing in 2002.

The Qatar Foundation was also listed as a supporter of Arab-American Association of New York on its website when it was led by the inflammatory Islamist activist Linda Sarsour.

The U.S. should be taking full advantage of this unique opportunity to finally hold Qatar accountable.  Pressure should be piled on with sanctions and by following the recommendation of Dr. J. Michael Waller to demand reparations be paid to the family of every American killed by terrorists supported by the Qatari government.

In other words, the U.S. government should follow President Trump and not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has contradicted the president by criticizing the Arabs’ punishments of Qatar. Supporting Tillerson, the State Department then forcefully attacked the credibility of the Saudis and the UAE’s complaints, saying it is “mystified” by their lack of detail and evidence.

The State Department spokesperson said, “The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.” She continued:  “At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns about Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?”

Qatar’s record is clear, as Oubai Shahbandar’s list of Qataris who have supported Al-Qaeda proves. What’s “mystifying” is the State Department’s position on this vitally important issue.

For a list of Qataris called out for links to Al-Qaeda, click here

List Of Qatari Al Qaeda Operatives Sanctioned By US
Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow and national security analyst and an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.