How Could Trump Thank Qatar for Fighting Terror?

Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh (L) and then emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Gaza in 2012. (Photo: Mohammed Salem / Pool /Getty Images)
Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh (L) and then emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Gaza in 2012. (Photo: Mohammed Salem / Pool /Getty Images)

President Trump of January 2018 is at odds with President Trump of June 2017 over Qatar.

Trump just thanked Qatar for its “action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms” and implied U.S. opposition to the Arab states’ blockade of the jihad-sponsoring country, something Trump previously praised and claimed credit for.

“President Trump reiterated his support for a strong, united Gulf Cooperation Council that is focused on countering regional threats,” the readout says.

The praise for Qatar is a major victory for Secretary of State Tillerson, who has long-standing ties to the Qatari regime from his days leading Exxon-Mobil. Tillerson’s company even had officials serving alongside officials from Al-Jazeera (a Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas mouthpiece) on the U.S.-Qatar Business Council.

When Qatar’s Arab neighbors (including Saudi Arabia and Egypt) took the country to task for its sponsorship of terrorism and close ties to Iran, Tillerson’s State Department sided with Qatar and contradicted the commander-in-chief’s publicly-stated support for the Arabs’ measures. Tillerson, of course, also opposes designating the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Given Tillerson’s positions, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Clarion Project broke the story that the State Department hosted a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood groups — the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) — to hear their perspective on Israel and the Temple Mount crisis happening at the time.

The State Department confirmed the meeting and even added a few more details to make the matter even worse, saying that the USCMO “met a cross-section of working-level officials from different offices in the Department.”

In other words, a terror-linked Islamist coalition got the red carpet at the U.S. State Department. Meanwhile, smaller, secular-democratic Muslim organizations such as the Muslim Reform Movement, American-Islamic Forum for Democracy and Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow are still waiting for their calls to be returned by the department.

Whatever went on during those meetings was music to the Islamists’ ears.

“We were encouraged by the constructive dialogue at the State Department on these important issues,” said the USCMO’s Secretary-General, Oussama Jammal.

But the Qatari regime didn’t rely solely on the State Department to go to bat for it.

It went on a spending spree hiring lobbyists, particularly those with strong connections from Trump’s presidential campaign. It signed a $50,000 contract to try to build support among Jewish-Americans, believing that the right messaging and networking could make lots of Jews look past Qatar’s sponsorship of genocidal, anti-Semitic jihadists who want to destroy Israel, some of whom even have kind words to say about Hitler and are Holocaust deniers.

How effective was Qatar’s influence operation?

One of the people working on behalf of Qatar is Nick Muzin, a former senior adviser to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Muzin was also an adviser to Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). He is also a pro-Israel, Orthodox Jew.

But while Cruz is one of Qatar’s biggest foes (he introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act into Congress), it looks like the purse strings of Qatar can be awfully persuasive to his senior adviser.

Muzin organized a visit to Qatar by American Jewish leaders in November that even included a meeting with the emir Al-Thani. Around the same time, the emir’s brother visited New York and his itinerary included meetings with Jewish leaders.

The Defense Department may have also urged President Trump to change his position because of the importance of the U.S. Al-Udeid Air Base there. If that is the case, it is absolutely absurd to let Qatar hold us hostage using our own base.

The U.S. base should mean that Qatar is dependent upon us, not the other way around. That base is more important to Qatar’s survival than it is to ours. The United Arab Emirates is recommending that the U.S. move the base, publicly offering itself up as a candidate. There are other options, and we need to let Qatar know that.

Qatar’s lavish sponsorship of terrorism and service as an Islamist ideological factory is undeniable and too big to be ignored or downplayed. There is no such thing as victory in the war on Islamist extemism—in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond—without Qatari support for the enemy ending.

Four members of Congress — Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Scott Perry (R-PA) and Robert Pittenge (R-NC) — are demanding the disclosure of a secret counter-terrorism deal struck between the U.S. State Department and Qatar in July.

The secret deal apparently led U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to write in October that the “Qatar government does not fund Hamas,” contradicting her testimony in June that the Qatari regime is “funding Hamas.”

As of now, there is no evidence at all that Qatar has substantially reduced its support for terrorism or come anywhere near deserving President Trump’s praise or Haley’s exoneration.

 

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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.