Consortium Against Terrorist Finance May 26, 2016, 10:26am

Qatar’s favorable posture toward extremist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and al-Qaeda manages to upset countries that formed alliances with Gulf States for the express purpose of degrading the power of such terrorist groups. Just why Qatar seems on a selfish mission to upend campaigns to defeat these organizations is a topic of enduring conversation - all the way from the Arab street to Washington’s hallowed think tanks. Explanations are elusive - unless one begins by mining evidence of Qatar’s motivations for tolerating regimes that openly coddle terrorists.

Nowhere does this confusion come to a head better than in Qatar’s selfishly cozy alliance with Sudan. By focusing on recent developments in the Qatar-Sudan relationship, reasons behind Doha’s self-serving affiliation with regional outlaw regimes and organizations come into focus. As far back as 1993 - well before the ascendency of al-Qaeda - Sudan had established itself as a state sponsor of terrorism. In a 2014 Congressional testimony, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Vice President for Research Jonathan Schanzer noted that “Today, Port Sudan is still the preferred hub for the transfer of Iranian weaponry to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” U.S. allies in the region have long called out not just Sudan’s contribution of its logistics to transfer arms and funds to support terrorism, but also its turf to host international pariahs. In addition, proscribed charities such as the Islamic African Relief Agency - listed by the U.S. Treasury Department as funding terrorism - has also been headquartered in Sudan, as well as the more infamous Qatar Charity.

Though seemingly unrelated to Qatar’s affinity for Sudan, the former’s historic embrace of al Qaeda points out a common foreign policy theme. Specifically, why would Qatar act to remove so much diplomatic distance separating it from Sudan and al-Qaeda - two of the planet’s most prominent pariahs? The answer: what Qatar likely receives in return for its support is direct access to the inner circles of the two entities - a feat which western nations simply would never undertake. What Qatar gets is arguably a treasure trove of intelligence on motivations, strategies, and possible intimate knowledge of future initiatives. The ironic value of this take on empathy gone amok is a degree of suasion that Qatar could exercise over regimes otherwise positioned beyond the confines of civilized behavior. In part, this presumptive agenda may explain the continued U.S. and allied acceptance of Qatari cultivation of these international outlaws. If the U.S. is asked why it tolerates Qatar’s engagement of these intolerable regimes, the answer could well be “Does anyone else have a better idea?”  In fact, the response is yes - the cumulative downside of such longstanding acceptance is a nation and a major terrorist entity enjoying a level of validation widely seen as conferring state legitimacy. And that, diplomatic niceties aside, is intolerable.        

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