President Donald Trump has not been president for very long but has already made great strides in efforts to fulfill his agenda under what anyone can admit is a hostile media environment. One of his goals is the stabilization of the Middle East and the eradication of ISIS. To this end he early on made a state visit to Saudi Arabia where he famously held a glowing orb in the new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology. During this state visit he urged Middle Eastern countries to do more to help stem the perpetuation of extremism and terrorism.
As a result, America’s regional partners have taken action against one of its members for its dubious ties with extremism: Qatar. This has created a very complex situation for the United States as they are following our directive while simultaneously pointing fingers at the country where much of our military assets in the region, including our regional headquarters of the US Central command, is located.
The accusations against Qatar have come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and UAE. These nations have cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar for its connection to ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood on top of smaller terrorist groups such as groups in the Qatif Province of Saudi Arabia, a Shi’a majority province in a Sunni nation where sectarianism is enflamed by Iran. The coalition’s sanctions have been followed by a list of demands according to the Washington Post. Qatar continues to proclaim its innocence which has complicated America’s response.
At first, the Trump Administration seemed to back the sanctions but has since turned to offers of mediation between the two parties. In addition, former US Attorney General Jon Ashcroft has been hired to represent Qatar on the international stage.
What are Qatar’s connections to terrorism? Well like many other players in the region, they like to play both sides. They understand that their gravy train relies on exports of oil to the Western world but they are also interested in regional politics which they seek to use terrorist groups to expand their influence or to create instability which distracts the attention of larger hegemonic states giving Qatar considerably more independence.
So, they are two-faced, just like pretty much every other regional ally America has minus Israel. What makes them unique is how the nation has been used to launder money from wealthy financiers to terrorist organizations. Qatar has sat back in non-compliance against international financiers and duplicitous charity groups who keep their money in Qatar and use it to bankroll terrorist groups. In addition, the Qatar Charity, a NGO with government ties, has also been accused of funneling money to terrorist groups.
These accusations are not out of the blue as some in the media have claimed. These accusations can be traced back to as early as 2003 when Congress was made aware of charities in Qatar funding Al-Qaeda activities in Afghanistan. In addition to this, they maintain diplomatic relations with Iran and have not complied with American-backed sanctions against the belligerent state.
The demands made by the coalition deal mostly with these finances however there are curious demands which suggest personal motive. Some make sense like cutting off ties with Iran as well as all terrorist groups, freezing financial assets, extraditing those terrorists residing their now, and follow the Riyadh Agreements. Other demands, however, don’t do much in the way of battling terrorism.
These demands include shutting down Al Jazeera, closing a Turkish military base (a NATO ally of the United States but whose president has taken the country in a dangerous direction), and paying reparation for damages done by their terrorist finances.
It is unclear if this is an ultimatum or just the first stages of a negotiation. However, we should look at this in the regional sense. Even though Qatar is a reputed ally and one of the important Gulf Oil States, it has been non-compliant and has had dubious affairs with primarily Shi’a related groups (but obviously allowing financing for both sides). Its business dealings with Iran which violates America’s sanctions are a good example of their non-compliance. This connection has made them seen as a turncoat to the Sunni nations that are fearful of Iran’s growing reach.
The fact is, Qatar is a variable in this complex web but we shouldn’t dilute ourselves; they’re just a convenient scapegoat to other so-called allies like Saudi Arabia who has been sponsoring terrorism as well. The United States should purse Qatar that isn’t the issue.
The issue is: what do we do about the other nations in the region that hypocritically do the same thing?