Trump Admin Defends Bid to Give Terror-Tied Qatar $200M in Military Tech

Sale comes as Congress calls for investigation into Qatar’s Al Jazeera network

Donald Trump and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani

Donald Trump and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani / Getty Images

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http://freebeacon.com/national-security/trump-admin-defends-bid-give-terror-tied-qatar-200m-military-tech/

Trump administration officials are defending new plans to provide Qatar with nearly $200 million in advanced military equipment amid efforts by Congress to investigate the country’s ties to terror groups and backing for a recent stealth spy operation on American citizens, U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

The administration has come under fire in recent days from conservative allies for signing off on a $197 million military sale to Qatar, the source of much regional controversy due to its ongoing financing of terror groups and efforts to spy on American citizens via its propaganda network Al Jazeera.

The military sale has come under criticism from some White House allies who told the Free Beacon that Qatar’s behavior continues to undermine the United States, particularly its efforts via Al Jazeera to spy on the U.S. Jewish community.

Asked if the sale is being reviewed in light of Qatar’s terror financing and efforts to undermine the United States in the region, a State Department official defended the $197 million sale.

“Qatar is an important partner in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and we share the common goal of working collectively to establish a stable, secure, and prosperous Middle East,” the official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon.

The U.S. administration continues to honor a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, reached between America and Qatar in July. This includes increased information sharing on regional terror groups, the administration official said.

“As a result of the MOU the [former] secretary signed with the Qatari foreign minister in July, the United States and Qatar have increased information sharing on terrorists and terrorist financiers, participated in counterterrorism technical trainings, and rolled out programs to improve aviation security and passenger screening measures,” the official explained.

“We continue to work with Qatar to crack down on terrorists and their financiers through the implementation of an improved terrorist designation program,” according to the administration.

Qatar has promised the United States that it will review funding efforts identified as benefiting terror groups, the administration official maintained.

“Qatar is also reviewing their charitable and financial sectors to identify and eliminate the vulnerabilities exploited by terrorist financiers,” the official disclosed.

“All of our Gulf partners do important work to fight the terrorist threat, and all must do more to combat terrorism and terrorism finance.”

Despite criticism of the latest military sale, the United States remains committed to ensuring that “Qatar is able to safely and effectively coordinate their military air operations, and be interoperable with the United States,” the official said.

Information provided by the Trump administration has not assuaged fears that the military sale will moderate Qatar’s terror financing activities, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former U.S. terrorism finance analyst, said the United States is continuing to look the other way when it comes to Qatar’s support for regional terror groups, which include Hamas.

“It’s understandable that Qatar needs weapons,” said Schanzer, senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “They are under a blockade by their Gulf Arab neighbors and therefore feel threatened. But Washington continues to ignore the fact that Qatar’s support for a range of terrorist groups—from Hamas to the Taliban to al-Qaeda—makes them an entirely unreliable ally. It sends the wrong message, indeed a dangerous one, when we throw our weight behind them without holding them to account.”

Another source with knowledge of the matter said the latest military sale is part of a rogue policy pursued by recently fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Free Beacon first reported earlier this week that Tillerson’s efforts to balk White House policy, particularly regarding Iran, led to his dismissal from the administration.

“This isn’t exactly why the president replaced Tillerson with [Mike] Pompeo, but it’s also not unrelated,” said the source, a veteran foreign policy adviser who works closely with Congress on Middle East issues.

“The State Department under Tillerson tried to lock in many of Obama’s worst Middle East policies, including turning a blind eye to Qatar’s support of terrorist groups and anti-American groups including the Muslim Brotherhood,” added the source. “It may take years for Pompeo to unwind all of this, but at least he’ll be pursuing the right policies instead of making up excuses for the wrong ones.”

Other sources pointed to Al Jazeera’s recent spy operation on American Jews as a reason to revaluate the sale.

“Qatar still finances Hamas and allows its state propaganda outlet, Al Jazeera, to spy on Americans on U.S. soil,” said the source, who has been working on efforts to see Al Jazeera designated as a foreign agent under U.S. law.

“We’ve seen that Congress has taken the lead in standing up to the Qataris and Al Jazeera in a strong, bipartisan way,” the source said. “I’m surprised that the Trump administration is taking a back seat on fighting terror. This seems more like a Tillerson move than a Trump move. Someone should check with him.”

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2 Comments on “Trump Admin Defends Bid to Give Terror-Tied Qatar $200M in Military Tech”

  1. Momus Says:

    Al Thani has a bad handshake..looks like poof.

  2. wingate Says:

    Bad news 4 the USA……very bad news !
    Nothing has been learnt – nothing….
    My guess is : the USA has just pushed it over the top – real change isnt possible any more….


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