Days into the anti-regime demonstrations in Libya, back in February 2011, Muammar Gaddafi addressed the leaders of Qatar, snapping: “Is this how it ends? Is this the blood and brotherhood between us? You? Standing against us, and for the sake of whom, I ask you in the name of God?”
Many scoffed at the former Libyan leader, writing him off as a delusional madman. Seven years down the road, Gaddafi’s words ring throughout the Arab world and beyond.
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Not only has Qatar worked systematically on destabilising the entire region, from Syria and Iraq through Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, but is now firing off false accusations, left and right, against sister states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), accusing the UAE, for example, of hacking its official website to frame its Emir, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani with incorrect statements about Iran and Saudi Arabia.
If there is one country that has thrived on promoting all kinds of malice, cyberterrorism included, then it is Qatar.
Many have called it the ‘Club Med of Terrorists’. Certainly it is among the most two-faced nations in the world.
Damascus and Baghdad have both blamed Doha for the destruction of their countries and the rise of Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), while Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, John Podesta, had once identified the tiny country as providing “clandestine, financial logistics” to Daesh and other “radical groups”.
Qatari rulers have denied the charges from Day One.
This summer, they have even hired John Ashcroft, former US attorney-general at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks, to clear their name, after United States President Donald Trump recently described them as “high level” sponsors of terrorism.
Three years ago, Shaikh Tamim was on CNN in self-defence, claiming that Doha had its own list of “wanted terrorists” — a list that he has never been able to show to anybody, raising doubts on whether or not it actually exists.
Qatar already violates international law by hosting sanctioned figures such as Khalid Mesha’al, the chief of Hamas, Yousuf Al Qaradawi, and former president of the Qatari Football Association Abdul Rahman Bin Omar Al Nuaimi.
The latter is a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US Congress.
According to the US, Nuaimi had funnelled more than £1.25 million (Dh5.96 million) monthly to Al Qaida in Iraq and Syria.
He had set up a Switzerland-based NGO, ostensibly to promote human rights in the Arab world, which has since been designated as a terrorist organisation by the UAE Government.
Most if its clients have been linked to the Brotherhood and Al Qaida. Nuaimi himself was designated as a terrorist by the US in 2013 and sanctioned by Britain in 2014.
In 2014, it was reported that eight to 12 “key figures in Qatar” were raising “millions” for terrorists in the Syrian battlefield.
That same year, 24 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee signed a letter suggesting sanctions on Qatar and Turkey if they insisted on supporting terror groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the ‘Country Report on Terrorism’, released by the US State Department, “entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorists and violent extremist groups, particularly regional Al Qaida affiliates such as the [Al] Nusra Front.”
A clear deal
Speaking to the 9/11 Commission in 1996, Osama Bin Laden’s business associate Jamal Al Fadel said that the Al Qaida leader had once told him that the Qatar Charitable Society (now renamed the Qatar Charity) was one of his many sources of funding.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, a major player in the 9/11 attacks, had spent two weeks hiding in Qatar, while former Central Bank of Qatar employee Khalifa Mohammad Turki Al Subaiy has been accused of being a senior financier of Al Qaida, according to Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the US Department of Treasury David Cohen.
Qatar is a closely knit and closely watched country. No Al Qaida operative would pass through Doha International Airport without the knowledge of the Qatari royals.
Clearly, from its mediating role with Al Nusra Front, Qatar has the ears of its Syrian founding commander Abu Mohammad Al Golani, a man who made all his exclusives on Al Jazeera, just like Bin Laden did before him in 2001.
Most of the group’s battlefield victories in recent years were scored with Qatari money, including the takeover of Idlib in the Syrian northwest in mid-2015.
In August 2014, Doha negotiated the release of 45 United Nations peacekeepers held by Al Nusra Front, and in December 2015, negotiated a similar deal between them and the Lebanese Government.
Last year it paid up to $1 billion in ransom to Al Nusra Front. Under interrogation, Iraqi terrorists have confessed that they had received Qatari passports from Abdul Karim Al Thani, a relative of the current emir, during the so-called insurgency of 2003-2005.
In 2015, a member of the Sudanese Liberation Movement had accused Qatar of endorsing genocide in Darfur, through money transferred via the Qatar Charity.
One of Qatar’s prime terror affiliates has been Hamas.
Two weeks ago, the group’s top command was received by Yousuf Al Qaradawi in Doha. Apart from Mesha’al, who has been living in Qatar since 2011, other Hamas commanders based in Doha are Saleh Arouri, the founder of Hamas military branch, Izz Al Deen of Al Qassem Brigades, and Hussam Badran, its media spokesman.
When Hamas illegally stormed and overran Gaza in 2007, Qatar and Turkey were the only two countries that did not stand with the legitimate government of Palestinians.
Instead, Doha helped boost Hamas rule with $250 million in aid while former Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani was the first head of state to visit Gaza in 2012.
As of now, Qatar has bankrolled Hamas with more than $1 billion.
Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and former Carnegie scholar. He is also the author of Under the Black Flag: At the frontier of the New Jihad.