Secretary of State Pompeo just returned from a trip across the Middle East and one of his stops was in Qatar. He announced a number of initiatives including an expansion of al-Ubeid Air Base where the US has a major contingent. What was not mentioned was Qatar’s continued support for terrorism or its many other malign activities throughout the region or their effects on the US and our interests.
Many in the State and Defense Departments hope to get relations with Qatar on a better footing and expand US security, trade and other interactions with them. There is also a push to end the ongoing dispute between them and the other Gulf states..
There was no good news to announce about the feud ending which should not be surprising given the failure by Qatar to address any of the demands by its neighbors. The US should be joining the other Arab states in many of these demands especially those related to their continued support for terrorism. They maintain far too friendly relations with most of the Islamist groups around the world and even host some of the worst offenders in their own country.
A piece today by Kyle Shideler highlights one particularly egregious example in Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
Qaradawi is perhaps best known in the West for his vitriolic anti-Semitism on the Qatari state-run media outlet Al Jazeera and fatwas supporting the use of suicide bombings by the terrorist group Hamas. In 2008, the U.S. government designated the Qaradawi-led international charitable coalition known as “The Union of the Good” for its role in financing Hamas.
He plays a major role inside Qatar as well as having an outsized in influencing jihadists and Islamist groups. Shideler rightly points out the US can and should designate him as a terrorist and push Qatar to break ties with him.
This and other efforts to call Qatar to account for their terror support are complicated both by the US military presence there, but also the help they give us when we must deal with Islamist groups. They are deeply involved in US/Afghan negotiations with the Taliban even hosting the talks happening right now. They can do this because they support and are friendly with the Taliban. They also helped negotiate the release of Bowe Bergdahl and served as bag men for the ransom Obama claimed he never paid.
It is understandable that many believe the US can gain from an end to the feud in the Gulf, but only if Qatar addresses the legitimate bad behavior it is deeply involved in. If not, the US should not let a desire for amity and good will and the existence of a helpful military base overcome an unacceptable support for terrorism.