Thu, 21 Mar 2019 - 01:07 GMT
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in the Oval Office at the White House on April 10. MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES
CAIRO – 21 March 2019: A Foreign Policy report has warned that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration’s recent flip-flop on Qatar has increased the chances of conflict in the Middle East.
The report highlighted how the feud started when Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Barhain decided to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its role in supporting and financing terrorism and having close ties with regional foe, Iran.
Then the coalition issued a number of demands, including that the country deport to Egypt Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas.
According to the report, Qatar was also expected to end all financial and political support of the Brotherhood, its affiliated movements, and terrorist groups across the Arab world, including Hamas in Palestine and al Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, and cease all military and strategic ties with Iran.
CAIRO - 14 September 2017: One hundred days have passed since countries decided to take a step against the tiny emirate of Qatar and its policies that financed and backed terrorism, contributed in destabilizing the region, drove wedges between neighboring countries and spread chaos to achieve its own schemes and agendas.
The blockade was only the latest in a series of confrontations between the countries. The first crisis occurred in 2014 when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, followed by Egypt, withdrew their ambassadors from Doha over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama stayed neutral, as it did throughout the rest of the president’s tenure.
Unlike his predecessor, according to the report, Trump initially opted to support Saudi, Egyptian, Emirati, and Bahraini pressure on Qatar, calling Doha a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
Yet despite his previous support, the president has now come full circle. Earlier this spring, Trump hosted Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the White House and called him a “friend of mine” and a “very big advocate” in the war on terror.
Likewise, in a visit to Riyadh in April, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly told the Saudi-led coalition to end the embargo and concentrate on more important matters, such as achieving stability in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; carrying out operations against the Islamic State and al Qaeda; and containing Iran. Nevertheless, sanctions against Qatar still stand.
“The Trump administration is making a strategic mistake, and perhaps a very grave one,” Foreign Policy said.
The report further added that beyond its ties to Iran, Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood is at least as troubling, if not more so.
Since 2011, Brotherhood-linked groups have sown chaos from Egypt to Libya to Syria. For example, Brotherhood-linked terrorists are believed to have been behind the 2015 murder of Egyptian Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat, who referred many Muslim Brotherhood leaders to trial. There have been countless other such attacks in recent years.
The group is also seen by some as being close to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. A few months ago, for example, the al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in a recording in which he defended the Muslim Brotherhood against accusations of terrorism.
He has also extensively praised one of its ideological founders, Sayyid Qutb, for “igniting the Islamic revolution against the enemies of Islam.” Al Qaeda’s former leader, Osama bin Laden, was likewise an acolyte and admirer of the Brotherhood, as documents seized from his Pakistani compound after his death revealed.
The Muslim Brotherhood may have a connection to the Islamic State as well. In a 2013 interview, Qaradawi, currently the most important cleric in the Brotherhood’s global community, whom the Qatari leadership has long backed, revealed that Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a member of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood as a young man. He went on to say that “ISIS leaders lured him after being released from prison,” and that “young people from Qatar and other countries joined this group.”
Qatar’s engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood goes beyond the Middle East; At home, Qatar’s media is also permeated by influence from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Al Jazeera network, based in Qatar and owned and run by its government, has long provided a global platform for Brotherhood leaders and terrorist supporters like Qaradawi. During the Iraq War, the network repeatedly aired videos of al Qaeda leaders calling for violence against the United States. Last year, the network broadcast a eulogy for Omar Abdel-Rahman, aka “the blind sheikh,” who was a leader of Gamaa al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian terrorist group responsible for hundreds of deaths, including the 1997 massacre at Luxor.
CAIRO - 29 July 2017: Oddly enough, Doha believes the anti-terror quartet of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain can trust its commitments. Qatar has brought its credibility level to a zero-trust level with its own hands, as it repeatedly broke a number of agreements and commitments.
The Muslim Brotherhood presents a threat to the region and the United States. As the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, John Jenkins, wrote in 2017, “for the Saudis, the MB has come to represent a profound ideological threat to the basis of their state. For them, it is a secretive, partisan and divisive organization dedicated to a self-defined renewal of Islam and the establishment of a transnational Islamic state through incremental but ultimately revolutionary political activism, using tactical violence if necessary.”
For the United States, too, such “revolutionary political activism” represents a profound danger. If the Brotherhood’s long-term objective really were to build a fundamentalist Islamic society free of Western influence, that would be devastating to the United States’ strategic posture and standing in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world.
It is therefore important to get Qatar to end its support of the Brotherhood—perhaps even more important than getting the country to distance itself from Iran. Yet this cannot be done without credible pressure from the country’s neighbors, of the kind meted out in the recent Saudi-led embargo. By having apparently thrown its weight behind Qatar, though, the Trump administration has hurt the standing of its main Arab friends, weakened the seriousness of their threats, and damaged their chances at persuading Qatar to choose another route.
The United States has a long-established strategic relationship with Qatar. Al Udeid, a U.S. joint airbase, sits outside Doha and serves as the command center for U.S. air operations over Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It is also the ultimate guarantor of Qatari security. In short, the United States has the tools to help put Qatar back on the right path, but only if Trump reverses his reversal and joins the Saudi-led coalition in applying pressure.In recent years, it has been accused of giving more than $175 million to Brotherhood-linked groups in Denmark, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom.