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‘US now has the chance to strike at the root of terror’

The terror trail leads all too clearly to Qatar, two US dailies say

Gulf News

Dubai: The United States has the chance to strike at the sources of terror, more severely than ever since 9/11 now that the country which backs terrorists and finances them has been put in the spotlight.

Two US newspapers, Washington Times and The Hill, both highlight that the terror trail leads all to clearly to Qatar and the US must act.

“The US must take off the blinders, no matter where this trail may lead. And that definitely includes a fresh and searching look at the very nation that hosts the critical US Combined Air and Space Operations Centre in the Middle East — Qatar,” Washington Times says.

The newspaper says Washington must remember who its real allies are, allies like Saudi Arabia. The days of the Obama administration cosying up to the Muslim Brotherhood are over. Qatar made a bet that the US would continue down the path of enabling extremists, and saw the green light to fund, shelter and enable terror via its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar-based preachers and fund-raisers also have close ties to the Daesh, while Doha is also cosy with Iran and Hamas.

And it’s proving a bad bet. Qatar has no one to blame but itself for the sanctions imposed by its Gulf neighbours.

German intelligence reported just this week that Iran has not given up in its quest for nuclear technology, despite its statements to the contrary.

America will need the Gulf allies in any potential flare-up with Tehran and its terror armies and militias spread out from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. America needs the Saudis and the others for future energy and economic cooperation as the Trump administration tries to reach 3 per cent annual growth.

The main thorn in the side of the Gulf states has been Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the “Arab Spring” erupted in 2010, the Middle East has been inflamed with fights to the death between factions struggling for power. Those contests still rage in Syria.

Qatar strongly backed the Brotherhood in Egypt, and Qatar’s emir has long befriended Egyptian-born cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi, nicknamed the “Theologian of Terror,” who has lived in Qatar since 1961. Al Jazeera became a platform for Qaradawi’s blood-curdling preachings.

Qatar gave shelter to Brotherhood operatives even after the fall of ousted President Mohammad Mursi in Egypt, financed their continued propaganda, and supported their fund-raisers, as evidenced by the recent public display to Qaradawi’s closeness to the Emir. Qaradawi also issued a fatwa in favour of killing American soldiers in Iraq wherever they could be found.

Even after a 2014 agreement between Qatar and the Gulf kingdoms to cease these nefarious activities, Qatar continued to support the Muslim Brotherhood and offer not just refuge, but a secure base to run operations and spread its ideology.

Qatar’s relationship with Iran is even more troubling. A memo leaked by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi showed Qatar funnelled a half-billion dollar ransom payment, possibly the largest in history, to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps-supported Shia militias earlier this year.

With President Obama’s midnight cash payment of almost $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion) as part of the nuclear deal, Iran can finance lots of mischief in the Middle East. Qatar also funds Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaida affiliate in Syria, directly. Many other terror operatives are allowed to operate in Qatar without worry of being detained.

The Hill says while Americans are well aware of terrorism and its impact on their country, they are less informed about countries that pay for terrorists’ weapons, do public relations for them, and provide sanctuary and diplomatic cover for their terror organisations.

Since at least 1995, a regime change in Qatar has resulted in that country’s embrace of less than savoury regional actors. Of greatest concern have been the Qatar regime’s: (1) covert support for terror groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, (2) pro-terrorist Al Jazeera broadcasts, (3) considerable trade and cosy relations with Iran, (4) tolerance and rhetorical support for Hamas and Hezbollah, (5) allowing growth of terror groups inside Qatar since the Arab Spring, and (6) the financing of Al Qaida (as was stated by the US Treasury in 2013) by, for example, the head of the Qatar-based Alkarama Foundation.

The Hill says added to these concerns are the broadcasts by Al Jazeera that call for the killing of American servicemen.

It says: “In a combined and unified front, the United States and our Arab allies can begin to travel the hard road of bringing down the mullah regime in Iran which is, according to the United States State Department, the world’s biggest supporter and financier of terrorism.”

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