Time To Get Tough With Qatar

REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

Bruce Majors Freelance Writer
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Since taking office Donald Trump has taken a tough line on terrorism and terrorism supporters throughout the Middle East. For the new administration this has included the launching of airstrike against the Assad regime and dropping what has been described as the “Mother of All Bombs” on a suspected network tunnels used by terrorists in Afghanistan. The Trump administration has also greenlighted the first use of U.S. regular troops in Somalia since 1994; not to mention increased raids and strikes in Yemen.

Yet, defeating the guys who are on the ground fighting American interests is only part of the fight against terrorism.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in Doha last week to talk about counter-terrorism and shared interests between the tiny emirate and the United States which include counter-terrorism.

According to the Pentagon, Qatar’s role in financing terror wasn’t on the agenda. It should have been. Qatar continues to fund terrorist groups in Palestine, Libya, and Syria and elsewhere.

To take one example, just last year Qatar paid $31 million to the Hamas government in Gaza. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel. Not in Qatar. In fact the former Emir of Qatar was the first foreign leader to visit Gaza after the territory was seized by Hamas. Qatar insists that the $31 million was used to pay salaries Hamas bureaucrats rather than security personnel. Given that Hamas controls the territory and is the ultimate paymaster of the bureaucracy that distinction is merely semantics.

Qatar played a leading role in Obama’s war to remove Qaddafi in Libya. A role that saw the CIA, Al-Qaeda and the Qataris all on the side of the rebels attempting to remove the long-time dictator. The U.S. came to regret its role in toppling Qaddafi in many ways. However, Qatar has doubled down and remains active. Qatar has in recent years reportedly funded terrorist groups from Mali to Somalia.

According to recent reports from the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies known Qatari terrorism financiers continue to drive around Doha’s dusty streets in European luxury cars. In between trips to Doha’s large shopping malls senior Qatari businessmen paid millions to terrorist groups.

Qatar has also developed a backdoor capacity to fund terror. Last month Qatar paid hundreds of millions of dollars to a ensure the release of some 24 Qataris captured in Iraq. The story widely reported in the international media is worth considering. What were the Qataris doing there in the first place?

If Qatar wants to continue to be considered a U.S. ally, if it wants to continue to receive U.S. military aid and host the massive Al Udedid airbase, it should come clean on its past role in terrorism finance and work with the U.S. Treasury department and other institutions that remain committed to fighting terror.

Bruce Majors is a Fellow at the American Media Institute