Abu Dhabi: Qatar has been too lax for too long in the fight against terror finance, said an expert on terrorist finance.

Dr David Andrew Weinberg, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a think tank in Washington, DC, investigating Qatar’s links to terror funding, told Gulf News the US has long accused Qatar of turning a blind eye to terror finance.

“This was why a senior US Treasury official called Qatar a permissive jurisdiction for terror finance in 2014 and said that year that Qatar was granting legal impunity to terror financiers under US and UN sanctions,” Dr Weinberg said.

Dr Weinberg added as recently as February 2017, the former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Department said that designated terror financiers continued to operate openly and notoriously in Qatar.

On the anniversary of 9/11 in 2014, Doha signed on to the Jeddah Communique, agreeing not just to countering the financing of Daesh and other violent extremists, but also to ending impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice. Yet a month later, Treasury’s then-Undersecretary David Cohen revealed the existence of US- and UN-designated terror financiers in Qatar who have not been acted against under Qatari law. 

Impunity for financers

Similarly, in May 2016, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Fin-ance Mark Kirk wrote that terror financiers under US and UN sanctions continue to enjoy such impunity in Qatar, according to a report titled Qatar and Terror Finance, written by Dr Weinberg, released in January.

Asked whether Qatar will be put on Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List, Dr Weinberg said Qatar will probably never be designated by the US Secretary of State as a state sponsor of terrorism, at the very least for geostrategic reasons.

“However, one of the laws that make up the US legal regime for such designations has a lower bar, one that Qatar has apparently violated, namely granting permission of a safe haven for operatives of any US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations, such as Hamas. That law, the Export Administration Act of 1979, mandates the imposition of additional licensing requirements for US exports to countries that are found by the US to have provided such a safe haven to terrorist groups,” Dr Weinberg said.

On why the Doha regime supports terrorist groups, Dr Weinberg said Qatar’s rulers have a different view from the US or the UAE as to what constitutes a terrorist group.

“To this day, Qatar has yet to publish a list of banned terrorist groups in the manner that the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have done. It also seems clear that Qatar has been supportive of Ahrar Al Sham and of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, both of which are classified by the UAE, though not the US, as being banned terrorist groups,” Dr Weinberg said.

Qatar supported the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisations in countries across the region during the Arab uprisings in 2011, believing they represented the wave of the future. From Qatar’s perspective, being at the front end of this trend would showcase the country’s supposedly progressive leadership.

Doha had hosted Egyptian and later, Syrian Brotherhood members for decades, including the maverick Egyptian cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi who has been living in Qatar since the 1960s.