Why Is the West Arming Qatar?
President Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday garnered the same attention as his Twitter rampages: the world was transfixed. But as cameras turned their attention to Trump, Qatari diplomats were maneuvering behind-the-scenes to shore up support from U.S. lobbyists.
That Qatar maintains close ties with Tehran is no secret, but proponents of rapprochement with Doha have been unabashedly downplaying the Thani family’s extensive terror-financing network in the Middle East.
From offshoots of al-Nusra in Syria to Hamas in the Gaza strip, the Qataris back a who’s who of jihadist groups. Adding insult to injury, Qatar’s support for terrorism is as blatant as it is pernicious. There’s no question that Qatar’s underwriting of Hamas’ terror enterprise runs deep. Indeed, Doha is littered with top Hamas officials, including the terror group’s former chief political leader Khaled Meshaal, who fell into the warm embrace of the Qataris after being exiled in 2012. In that same year Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, pledged a staggering $400 million to Hamas’ government in Gaza.
While Qatar markets itself as a reliable U.S. ally, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggest that the sheikdom’s terror-financing could extend as far as the Horn of Africa. According to 2009 document disclosed by WikiLeaks, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed serious concern over Qatar’s support for Somali insurgents, namely al-Shabab.
The notion that Qatar has cleaned up its act as a terror financier only to become the patron saint of peace is laughable and should be treated with the same contempt the Qataris show for U.S. foreign policy interests.
The small petro-state has done more for the cause of political Islam than perhaps any state in the Gulf. When it is not arming Syrian jihadists, Doha is tacitly supporting Muslim Brotherhood movements across the region, most of whom champion Islamism as a bulwark against the modern nation state.
And still, Qatar has made major headway in crystallizing key diplomatic relationships with the West. Take the sheikdom’s recent purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the British defense firm BAE Systems. The deal came after a $12-billion-dollar purchase order in June to purchase F-15 jets from American powerhouse Boeing Co.
The prospect of a heavily armed Qatar aligned with Shiite powerhouse and budding nuclear state Iran is self-evidently antithetical to Western interests. When the Israelis, Saudis, Emirates, and other mainstay U.S. allies sound the alarm bells, then perhaps it is a good idea to listen. The Doha-Tehran alliance poses an existential threat to our ally Israel. The sheikdom’s extensive terror funding operations not only back Hamas but a panoply of Islamist causes that threaten to unravel what’s left of security and order in the Mideast.
So, why is the West arming Qatar?
One of two things is happening here. Either Qatar is operating a world-class propaganda machine (see: Al Jazeera) designed to coax power players in the West to supply the small petro-state with formidable military technology or America and its NATO partners are willingly doubling-down on the Obama doctrine, shifting support from Riyadh to Tehran in a cynical ploy to reappraise the decades-long consensus on the Sunni-Shia divide.
Make no mistake, if the U.S. fails to take a cold, hard look at Qatar’s unequivocal support for terror, it will have only itself to blame for emboldened jihadist insurgencies in Syria, Gaza, and Somalia, and elsewhere.
And yet, the geopolitics of the Middle East are never that simple. Let’s be clear here. The Saudis have their hands dirty just like most other major players in the region. Pot meet kettle. Aside from oil, the kingdom’s main export is Wahhabism, an austere and fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam that has spread its tentacles through the Middle East and into Western Europe, in the suburbs of Paris, London, and Brussels, where Saudi funded mosques now host a menagerie of radical preachers hell-bent on indoctrinating vulnerable young men suspended between the high-minded virtues of multiculturalism and the sobering socioeconomic realities of disenfranchisement.
More to the point, the Sunni states behind the blockade against Qatar only pay lip service to Arab brotherhood and regional stability. In fact, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and of course Saudi Arabia are the primary foreign backers behind Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar, an ex-CIA asset, who is now being accused of human rights violations. Since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has taken a nosedive into chaos. Failing to prepare for the so-called “day after,” the United States and its NATO partners orchestrated a bombing campaign in 2011 that ultimately created the perfect storm for a power vacuum in a country long run by a single totalitarian strongman. Today, Libya is littered with Islamist factions and warring militias supported by outside forces, namely the Emirates, Egyptians, and to a lesser extent the Saudis. These states have directly intervened in the war-torn failed states, dropping bombs on alleged Islamists and providing aid to Haftar’s Libyan National Army in its war attrition against Libya Dawn, backed by Turkey and Qatar.
Taking all of this into account, it is not unreasonable to ask if the West’s perennial weapons deals with the Saudis are any more morally justifiable than its budding arms trade with the Qataris. The bottom line is two wrongs do not make a right. From the looks of it, the West appears to be arming both sides in a not-so-flattering repeat of the infamous Iran-Iraq war.
Joshua Yasmeh is an Iranian-American writer in Los Angeles. He has reported on the Middle East and security issues from two continents. A former staff writer for the Daily Wire who has interviewed Joe Libermann, Rudy Giuliani, and a number of international diplomats and defense department officials. His work has been printed by RealClearWorld, Fox News, and the Jewish Journal.