71 entities named terrorists by Egypt, KSA, UAE and Bahrain - Photo by Egypt Today 71 entities named terrorists by Egypt, KSA, UAE and Bahrain - Photo by Egypt Today

Qatar was a safe-haven for terrorists: counterterrorism expert

Sun, Jul. 30, 2017
CAIRO – 30 July 2017: Qatar housed leaders from Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, and Taliban and facilitated spreading their extremist ideology through Al Jazeera, said Mathew Levitt Wednesday in his testimony during the U.S. House of Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa session on U.S.-Qatar relations.

The former Wexler Fellow and Director at Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy also said that accusations against Qatar are substantive. He cited the former Treasury under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David Cohen, who reported in 2014 that Qatar has openly financed Hamas for many years, and continues to contribute to regional instability. He also noted that Qatar has supported other extremist groups operating in Syria.

Levitt added that the government in Doha was urged many times to cooperate with the U.S. to combat terrorist financing and, in particular, to deal with the ongoing solicitation of donations that fund extremist insurgents under the guise of humanitarian work, a popular phenomenon in Qatar. He also cited the former senior U.S. Treasury official Daniel Glaser, who said that U.S. and UN designated terrorist financiers continue to operate “openly and notoriously” in Qatar. In February 2017, Glaser lamented that Qatar had not yet made the kind of “fundamental decisions” on combating terror finance that would make the country a hostile environment for terror financiers, concluding that the positive steps Qatar had taken were “painfully slow.”

According to Levitt’s testimony, Qatar acted as a safe-haven and provided a platform for terrorists like Sheikh Qaradawi, a proponent of the Brotherhood and head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, with air time on Al Jazeera to legitimize suicide bombings and to inspire many attacks. He added that Qaradwi, despite stopping his show in 2014, remains a controversial Islamist leader whose name is included in the recent list of 59 people that the blockading countries hope Qatar will deport and hold responsible for inciting terrorism.

Furthermore, Qatar hosted many leaders of the Afghan Taliban and became the group’s center for diplomacy since the movement established an office in Doha in 2013. In that year more than 20 high-raking Taliban members and their families resided in Qatar.
Levitt concluded his testimony by saying that despite Qatar’s signature of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on combating terror financing with the U.S. and its anti terrorism law reforms in 2004, these steps are vague and it is unclear to what extent they will actually address the ongoing issues in Qatar. He added that Qatar should hold terrorist individuals, identified by the U.S and the United Nations (UN), responsible and should impose a comprehensive legislation to prevent terrorist activity within and outside of its borders.

Levitt suggested that taking actions towards individuals and organizations accused in early June by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain of financing terrorist organizations and receiving support from Qatar might help resolve its fight with its Gulf Cooperation Council neighbors.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, criticizing Gulf foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise.”

In his remarks, Tamim attacked Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which prompted the major Arab powers to adopt urgent and strict measures towards Doha.

On June 5, the Qatari crisis escalated when Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE announced a coordinated diplomatic break with Qatar for financing, adopting, and sheltering terrorists and extremists.
 
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