CATF Reports Oct. 27, 2016, 4:03pm


Not a word was proffered by Qatari authorities after the past two weeks’ media frenzy over Clinton’s leaked emails to her campaign manager John Podesta that brought the thorny issue of Qatar’s support for extremism in the Middle East back into the public eye. Their U.S. allies, on the other hand, felt that it was time for grandiose gestures and public appreciation. Yesterday, Assistant Secretary for the Department of the U.S. Treasury Daniel Glaser flew to Qatar to meet with senior Qatari leaders and to stress that the U.S. values their partnership regardless of the magnitude of Qatar’s past and enduring efforts to advance radicalism in the region and across the globe.

Maybe the timing of the leak was the key to Qatar’s silence. WikiLeaks released Clinton’s emails shortly after Qatar Airways announced their $11.7 billion order of 40 jets from U.S. manufacturer Boeing. The air company also committed to an additional order of 60 Boeing 737 Max 8 worth $6.9 billion, and seems intentioned to explore the purchase of 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, of 10 777-300ERs, as well as of single-aisle planes potentially replacing Airbus Group-supplied aircraft. Long stalled by the White House over concerns that the sale could erode Israel’s “qualitative military edge” and provide new weapons to states with controversial counterterrorism records, the deal reasserted and reinforced economic and military ties between the U.S. and Qatar beyond political and humanitarian concerns. After all, Qatar hosts the largest U.S. airbase outside American territories and remains a decisive partner for all U.S.’s efforts against ISIS.

It is hard, however, to accurately weigh strategic considerations against the positive impact of effective lobbying when it comes to the U.S.’s willingness to turn a blind eye to Qatar’s support for radical groups across the Middle East. As Al-Monitor columnist Julian Pecquet recently reported, Qatar has greatly expanded “its stable of lobbying and public relations firms from two to five in 2015 and paid them a combined $3.34 million, according to a review of financial disclosures.” Pecquet further observed, however, that conspicuous donations devolved in support of education and humanitarian aid across the globe have yet failed to get Qatar the reputation it has so determinedly sought to achieve. In both fields, the real intentions behind Qatar’s generosity have ultimately surfaced. If it has been hard for Qatar to reconcile its dedication to the humanitarian cause with its longstanding support for extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, it has been even harder for those countries who have received Qatar’s funds to publicly justify their passive or welcoming attitude towards the emirate’s donations.

By heavily investing in the construction and restoration of mosques and Islamic educative institutions promoting Salafi teachings, Qatar has secured enclaves of acquiescence – if not consensus – towards its agenda worldwide. Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Fellow David Weinberg reiterated yesterday in a column posted by The Weekly Standard that Salafi proselytization must be acknowledged as one of the central causes leading people to join the ranks of terrorist and extremists groups. Salafism’s “dehumanizing rejection of religious pluralism” is relevant to ISIS and al-Qaeda’s core beliefs just as much as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “absolute Islamism and bid to topple existing regimes”, Weinberg stressed.

Yet, faced with the event of Qatar – a Salafi/Wahhabi state and a longstanding patron of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood – growing resentful over an indirect, public acknowledgment of the emirate’s terror financing efforts by U.S. authorities, the U.S. Treasury emissary flew to Qatar to reinvigorate the alliance. According to the statement released by the U.S. Embassy, Daniel Glaser met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser to discuss “the Government of Qatar's recent positive efforts to counter terrorist financing” and to reiterate the U.S.’s support for Qatari initiatives to prevent terror financiers from accessing its financial system.

The Obama administration repeatedly came under strong criticism over the past years for its alliance with Qatar, and the strategic goals it serves do not make it less concerning. Qatar may be keeping Boeing in business and guaranteeing the U.S.’s continuing, sovereign presence at the Al-Udeid airbase, but ten years from now the American commitment to this axis may be regarded as one of the most myopic strategies ever pursued by the Obama administration.

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