Qatar must earn a new path forward

Jim Hanson

3 months ago

July 17, 2019

My recent FOX OpEd on the visit of the Amir of Qatar and options for improving relations.

President Trump will be meeting with the Emir of Qatar at the White House on Tuesday, July 9. The U.S. relationship with Qatar has been strained by their continued support for terrorism and ties with the mullahs of Iran. There is also still the ongoing blockade and diplomatic conflict between Qatar and the other Gulf states. Qatari involvement with Turkey has been problematic as well. The Emir is likely bringing promises of significant investments in the U.S. but we cannot let them simply buy their way out of the problems they are causing.

President Trump wants to see an end to the Gulf states disagreement and also move Qatar further away from Iran. There is a possibility those two things can work together, but that requires actual changes and substantive actions from the Qataris.

The rise of an Islamist alliance between Iran, Turkey and Qatar is contrary to U.S. strategic interests as well as the security and stability of the region. Qatari money fuels this and they need to end that. It has partly been a counterweight to the ongoing blockade, but also as recognition that these three countries are the vanguard of militant Islamism.

Qatar enjoys outsized support in the U.S. partly due to the major U.S. base in Doha and longstanding military cooperation, but also because of the hundreds of millions of dollars it spends on influence operations here. This is necessary to obscure their ongoing financing of terrorism and other malign activities including support for Iran.

Qatar gets credit for being partners in counterterrorism, but they often tip us off to terror groups we can hit that are causing problems for other terror groups that they support. That’s not real cooperation and we can no longer turn a blind eye to it.

The Saudis have severely curbed the power and funding of extremist clerics in the country and support for extremist groups around the world, and President Trump should demand the same from Qatar.

He should also tell them that it’s us or Iran. He is currently trying to find a way to have worthwhile negotiations with the Iranian regime and that requires them to have as little outside support as possible. All avenues in the maximum pressure campaign must be in play and sidelining supporters, Qatar included, is a part of that.

The partnership with Turkey also requires some adjustment. Erdogan has driven the country’s economy into the ground and Qatari cash and cheap energy allows him to continue his push toward becoming the next Caliph or Sultan in the Middle East. The U.S. is at a breaking point with Turkey and they need to see that there are consequences to walking away from our alliance. Qatar cannot be a safety net.

Another issue is to stop the use of Qatar-based broadcaster al Jazeera as a propaganda outlet. This is one of the changes demanded by the Saudis and Emiratis to lift the ongoing Gulf blockade of Qatar. Russia Today (RT) was forced to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) due to its efforts to influence the U.S. public and our leaders. Al Jazeera is at least as busy working to change U.S. policy. It must either stop or should face the same requirement under FARA. A group of U.S. Congressmen sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation and ruling on this.

Iran is the true threat to everyone in the region and President Trump should tell the Emir in no uncertain terms that Qatar either works with us and other U.S. allies to thwart Iran’s goals of regional hegemony and nuclear weapons, or they will join the mullahs as recipients of the maximum pressure campaign.

Qatar is wealthy, but not truly powerful. The influence that money can buy is significant, but it pales when compared to the U.S. adding its weight to the blockade against them. Instead the president should tell them to come to the table, stop funding terror, stop helping Iran, and enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future with the United States.

About the Author

Jim Hanson

Jim served in US Army Special Forces and conducted Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Insurgency as well as Diplomatic, Intelligence and Humanitarian operations in more than a dozen countries. He is the author of Cut Down the Black Flag – A Plan to Defeat the Islamic State, and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, C-Span, and numerous national radio shows.