U.S. Congressmen, military expert question relations with Qatar
CAIRO – 9 February 2019: U.S. members of the congress, military leaders and experts have shed the light on the current U.S. policy towards Qatar.
The discussion took place during a conference in Washington last Wednesday under the title “Qatar: U.S. Ally or Strategic Threat?” It also focused on Qatar’s lobbying and disinformation campaigns; its funding of Islamic extremism; its global media policy; its cyber espionage and election interference; alliance with regional foe Iran and Turkey; and the grand FIFA soccer fraud.
"Enough of Qatar's double-game," said Forum director Gregg Roman. "Its dazzling skyscrapers do not mask its malign influence. In the Middle East, it aligns with radical states and finances Palestinian rejectionism. In the West, it spreads the Islamist ideology and runs influence campaigns."
The policies adopted by the Hamad’s regime and how Doha embraced extremists harmed Qatar’s reputation among the international community, including countries that Doha assume as allies.
The U.S. currently maintains extensive ties with Qatar, centered around Al Udeid Air Base southwest of Doha, the nation’s capital.
During the conference, Rep. Jack Bergman, a retired lieutenant general, criticized Qatar for spying and hacking on U.S. soil, and for sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East.
Bergman further stated that Al Jazeera, Qatar’s propaganda outlet, “ran a months-long spy operation aimed at U.S. Jews and pro-Israel groups.”
He also noted that Qatar sponsors terrorism, including in the United States and European Union, and “continues to fund Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.”
A 2007 study by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies revealed that Qatar is undermining international security by appearing to let egregious acts of terror finance go unpunished.
Moreover, the study showed that Qatar fund al-Qaeda in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood, and paid a ransom of up to $1 billion to an al-Qaeda affiliate and Iranian security officials.
Likewise, Rep. Warren Davidson said Qatar also serves as a source of funding for the Nusra Front, a radical Syrian group aligned with al-Qaeda.
Both Davidson and Bergman called for passage of The Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, H.R. 2712, which is intended to prevent Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from accessing international support networks.
Under the H.R. 2712 act, the administration would be required to impose two or more sanctions on those who assist the organizations, including denying Export-Import guarantees, credit, or insurance; defense sales or services; munitions export licenses; exports of goods or technology controlled for national security reasons; or credit of more than $10 million.
Moreover, the bill would require the administration to impose a one-year suspension of U.S. assistance, international loans, technical assistance, and munitions exports for foreign governments that provide support for acts of terrorism or material support to Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Finally, it would prohibit such governments’ transactions in foreign exchanges subject to U.S. jurisdiction and transfers between financial institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction that involve any interest of such a government.
Moreover, retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald said, “My personal opinion is that Qatar has to decide: It can either work with Western-aligned countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, or it can be aligned with Iran. It can’t do both.”
On June 5, the Arab Terrorism Quartet (ATQ) severed their ties with Qatar over its support to terrorist groups and having close relations with the regional foe, Iran.
“If they want to become isolated or aligned with Iran, I think that would be a big mistake. I think the objective for the United States is to help the Qataris understand that.” Wald expressed concern over Qatar proving a haven for both the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. “You just can’t accept it.”
For his part, Rep. Roger Marshall, a second-term congressman from the home state of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agreed with other conference participants that Qatar’s “well-documented support for extremism has fueled bloodshed” throughout the region and around the world.
According to Marshall, that support “calls into question the long-term partnership” between the United States and Qatar.
“We have a significant investment in intelligence” in Qatar, and Pompeo and fellow senior administration figures “understand the complexity of this issue,” he said.