Proof continues to mount that Qatar supports Hamas, Al-Qaeda affiliates, the Muslim Brotherhood and contributes to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq. Yet, its prized status as a U.S. “ally” exempts it from being held accountable. The U.S. needs to call a spade a spade and label Qatar as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
The fighting between Israel and Hamas has brought a rare spotlight to Qatar’s duplicity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) explained in a recent interview that the Qatari government has “told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization,” even though the State Department labels Hamas a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres said Qatar is now “the world’s largest funder of terror.” In October 2012, the Qatari emir pledged $400 million to the Hamas regime governing the Gaza Strip. In June, Qatar offered $60 million to pay the salaries of Hamas’s government workers. The leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, continues to operate from Doha, the capital of Qatar.
When Khaled Mashaal and other Hamas officials lived in Syria, it contributed to the State Department’s designation of Syria as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Qatar is now harboring and funding them lavishly and hasn’t even received a slap on the wrist. Instead, Qatar was awarded with America’s largest arms sales of 2014: $11 billion worth of Apache helicopters and Patriot defense systems.
Qatar’ actions have been defended by none other than Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, another leader who is ostensibly a U.S. ally but backs Hamas. A charity linked to Erdogan is even signing up human shields and sending a new flotilla to challenge the blockade on Gaza. Erdogan said Turkey and Qatar are “on the side of the persecuted” and Israel is a “terrorist state.”
It is now known that Qatar’s support for Hamas includes material assistance for terrorist operations and even direct cyber attacks on Israel.
The Hamas leaders in Qatar are not only acting as diplomats but as managers of violence. Rep. Peter Roskin (R-IL) wrote a letter on July 31 that mentioned that Israel arrested a courier for Hamas who was delivering money and instructions to Hamas terrorists in the West Bank from the Qatar-based leaders.
“U.S. cooperation with Qatar at the very same time they are providing material aid and support to an active and ferociously violent terrorist organization only serves to tacitly endorse and encourage this unacceptable behavior,” Rep. Roskin wrote.
Aviad Dadon, an expert on cyber security and advisor to several Israeli ministries, revealed that Hamas is scheduling its rocket fire using advanced software purchased from Qatar. He also blames Qatar for providing equipment to Hamas for managing its tunnel complex. The software enables Hamas to coordinate its response when a tunnel is discovered by Israeli forces.
Dadon said Qatar is “at the top of the pyramid in the use of cyber-technology for terrorist purposes.” He said that 70% of attacks on Israeli government websites since the latest fighting began came from IP addresses linked to Qatar.
Qatari support for Al-Qaeda should be considered a threat to the U.S., as exposed on CNN's "Outfront with Erin Burnett."
The special shows a YouTube video released by Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, thanking its Qatari donors. It also explains how a Kuwaiti cleric is fundraising in Qatar for the terrorist group.
“What you have is the resurrection of charitable networks that had been suppressed post-9/11, but that are being reborn in the context of Syria…Qatar is at the center of this. Qatar has now taken its place in the lead of countries that are supporting Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-related groups,” says Juan Zarante, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism.
A chief Al-Qaeda fundraiser in Qatar is Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nu’aymi. He was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in December 2013, making his presence and activities public knowledge. Qatar has yet to arrest him.
Al-Nu’aymi channels money from Qatari donors to Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq. He also has acted as a courier for the delivery of content to media outlets. At one point in time, he was transferring $2 million each and every single month to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. This group is now known as the Islamic State. Qatar therefore has some responsibility for the group’s terrifying rise in Iraq and Syria.
In 2012, he delivered $250,000 to two leaders of Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia that has proven skillful at recruiting Americans. Last year, he passed about $600,000 to the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra and pledged $50,000 more.
American tolerance of Qatar’s backstabbing is partially due to a desire to counter Iran. As a Sunni Arab state that is helping to fight Iran’s proxies in Syria, Qatar is seen as a tool for containing Iran. Yet, Qatar is growing closer to Iran despite their differences.
Qatar reportedly helped heal the rift between Iran and Hamas. The Iranians’ chief Palestinian proxy, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, visited Qatar to meet with Hamas leader Mashaal in March. The country’s leaders recently agreed to “fight terrorism in the region.”
The Qatari government joined the NATO-led coalition to intervene in Libya and used its influence to support Islamist preachers, parties and militias. The Qatar-allied forces have undermined Libyan secularists at every turn. These Islamists include Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Ali Sallabi and militia leader Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, who has Al-Qaeda links.
It is doing the same thing in Syria, where secular rebels opposed to the Brotherhood complain of Qatari and Turkish influence. Qatar-backed forces like the Islamic Front, an alliance of Salafist groups including Ahrar al-Sham, are positioning themselves as “moderates” by battling the Islamic State forces.
“Nothing has changed in Qatar’s support for the Islamic Front with all its factions,” said one commander.
Qatar has alienated its Arab neighbors by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera, which has weekly show hosted by the Brotherhood’s inflammatory spiritual leader, is based in Doha. The Brotherhood and its affiliates, such as the International Union of Muslim Scholars, fundraise in Qatar. In 2012, a member of the Qatari royal family donated $1.4 million to the Union.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar this spring. A Saudi official even threatened to close the border with Qatar. The Middle East is divided into three alliances and the Qatar-Turkey-Muslim Brotherhood bloc is moving towards Iran.
Qatar’s support of terrorism has drawn the ire of David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and a group of 24 bipartisan members of Congress that confronted Qatar in August 2013.
“It’s our duty to ensure that our allies are not openly supporting any terrorist organization,” said Rep. John Barrow (D-GA).
The actions of the U.S. have informed Qatar that there is no price to pay for its support of Islamist terrorists and extremists. In 2009, a State Department memo described Qatar’s counter-terrorism cooperation as “the worst in the region,” citing the fundraising of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group in the country.
“Although Qatar's security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” it states.
Shockingly, the memo instructs State Department personnel to ignore Qatar’s support for terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of its limited cooperation in regards to Hamas:
“[G]iven the current focus of U.S. engagement with the GOQ [Government of Qatar] on terror finance related to Hamas, it would be counter-productive for Embassy Doha to engage the GOQ at this time on disrupting financial support of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
By supporting these terrorist groups, Qatar has directly contributed to the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israelis and countless Muslims. The treatment of Qatar sends the wrong message about the low standards the U.S. has for “allies.”
Support for Islamist extremism should disqualify a government from being considered an “ally.”
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on Fox News.