Archive for the ‘Qatar and terrorism funding’ category

It’s Time for Qatar to Stop Its Regional Meddling

September 1, 2017

It’s Time for Qatar to Stop Its Regional Meddling, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abha Shankar, August 31, 2017

Tehran sees Bahrain as a historic part of Iran and sees Saudi efforts to suppress the Shiite popular revolt as an “invasion,” making Bahrain a proxy battleground for the regional rivals. Riyadh, in turn, accuses Doha of supporting Iran-allied rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis.

Qatar’s failure to stop colluding with destabilizing elements to pursue its regional ambitions will only end up throwing the Middle East into deeper chaos.

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Bahrain is threatening to file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court against fellow Gulf state Qatar for supporting terrorism and interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs.

Qatar has engaged in “fourth generation warfare crimes” to destabilize Bahrain, a senior official told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news organization last week. “Fourth generation warfare” is described as “a concept of warfare that is decentralized, utilizes terrorism as a tactic and relies on media manipulation.”

A Bahraini TV documentary alleges that the Qatar-financed Academy of Change used “claims of peaceful activism” to push for regime change in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.

The documentary, “Academy of Destruction,” aired confessions that key figures affiliated with the academy “were sent to Manama to execute the Qatari goal to spread incitement and chaos to topple the regime in Bahrain.”

The academy is headed by Hisham Morsi, the son-in-law of blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qatar’s financial backing of the global Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement and chummy ties with Iran have helped fuel regional unrest that threatens to destabilize existing regimes in the boycotting countries.

Doha’s meddling in the internal affairs of regional Arab states led Bahrain – along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt – to impose an economic and diplomatic blockade in early June.

The boycotting countries issued a list of 13 demands to lift the embargo. Those demands call on Qatar to cut its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and scale down its ties with Iran.

Qatar rejected the demands saying they violate its sovereignty, causing the boycotting states to replace them with six broad principles urging Doha “to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of States and from supporting illegal entities.”

One alleged conspiracy had Qatar working with Iran to overthrow the Bahraini regime during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, Al Arabiya reported. Bahraini TV broadcast a recording alleged to be a conversation between Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani and Bahraini Shia dissident Sheikh Ali Salman plotting to oust Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family.

This revelation built upon an earlier report that Hamad bin Jassim masterminded a 2011 Qatar-sponsored initiative to work with Iran and Bahraini opposition groups, in particular Ali Salman’s Al-Wefaq Society, to foment unrest and destabilize the region.

The broader Iranian-Saudi struggle for Middle East dominance has made Doha’s cozy relationship with Tehran a point of contention with the Riyadh-led quartet. Bahrain holds Qatar responsible for “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos” in the island nation. Since a Saudi-led military intervention in Bahrain in 2011 sought to quell weeks of Shia-dominated demonstrations against the ruling al-Khalifa Sunni monarchy, the country has been hit by sporadic protests by its majority Shia community that were reportedly backed by Qatar.

Tehran sees Bahrain as a historic part of Iran and sees Saudi efforts to suppress the Shiite popular revolt as an “invasion,” making Bahrain a proxy battleground for the regional rivals. Riyadh, in turn, accuses Doha of supporting Iran-allied rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis.

Things came to a head between Qatar and the Saudi-led quartet in April when Doha agreed to pay $1 billion in ransom to Iranian security officials and an al-Qaida-affiliated Syrian Islamist group. The deal, reported to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” secured the release of 26 Qataris, including members of the royal family, kidnapped during a hunting trip to Iraq.

Problems with Qatar have been festering for some time. In 2013-2014, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani signed the Riyadh Agreements, but then failed to live up to its commitments. The agreements sought to build “a new phase of fraternal relations” and called on Qatar to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar also promised not to support rebel factions fighting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in Yemen and Egypt.

Neither pledge was fulfilled.

In addition to its ties to Iran, Qatar’s support for various Brotherhood movements is another sore point. Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Doha has gone all-out to embrace Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt, Gaza, Libya, Syria and Tunisia. The tiny but gas-rich Gulf state pumped billions of dollars into the former Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt, armed and aided Islamist rebel factions in Libya and Syria, and pledged millions to the Brotherhood’s Palestinian terrorist offshoot Hamas. Its government-backed Al Jazeera news network has helped advance Islamist agendas and provided a platform to Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood dissidents from other Gulf countries and Egypt.

Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia had earlier embraced Muslim Brotherhood members fleeing repression in their home countries, the Gulf monarchies subsequently had a falling out with the Islamist movement after its local networks sought to politicize Islam. In a 2002 interview, the late Saudi Prince Nayef Bin Abdl Aziz famously alleged the Brotherhood sought to “politicize Islam for self-serving purposes” and claimed “that the root of all our problems and issues is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In March 2011, several members of the UAE’s al-Islah organization signed a political petition that demanded “an elected parliament with legislative powers” leading to a major crackdown on the Islamist group. A Facebook group “The UAE Revolution” called for “a revolution against the era of Sheikhs, a revolution against oppression and suppression of freedoms in the UAE, a revolution against those who have looted from the people of the UAE.”

More than 65 members of al-Islah were sentenced up to 15 years in the UAE in July 2013 for plotting to overthrow the Gulf monarchy in a trial contested by human rights groups. In an opinion piece the previous month, Emirati political analyst Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi had called the Brotherhood “the greatest threat to the UAE” and urged the Gulf monarchy to “take immediate measures to show that it will not stand for such threats” from the Islamist movement.

Egypt turned into another battleground for the Gulf monarchies in the wake of the Arab Spring. Relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia became strained when a Muslim Brotherhood-led government came to power in Egypt in 2012. President Mohammad Morsi’s government backed uprisings against Arab monarchies and engaged in outreach to Riyadh’s arch rival Iran. Doha, on the other hand, provided Morsi’s government billions of dollars in aid. After the military ousted Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government in July 2013, Saudi Arabia and the UAE together offered $8 billion in aid to help pump up the Egyptian economy. The Muslim Brotherhood was subsequently designated a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt.

Qatar’s maverick foreign policy seeks to use Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists as strategic weapons to upend Saudi dominance and further destabilize the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood’s successes in overthrowing regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and other places in its quest for a global Caliphate has Saudi Arabia and the UAE worried that Qatar’s support may invigorate the Brotherhood in the Gulf monarchies and create civil unrest.

Qatar just restored full diplomatic ties with Iran that broke off last year following attacks on Saudi diplomatic facilities in Tehran. Doha’s close ties to the Islamic Republic will ensure continued collaboration with Iran-backed terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia’s restive eastern region of Qatif and Bahrain. Doha will also continue supporting Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen complicating the existing political, military, and humanitarian crisis in the country, where a Saudi-led military intervention is underway.

Qatar points to “Saudi and Emirati hypocrisy” by arguing that both the Gulf monarchies have a “shameful history” of support for terror and extremism; so why is the island Gulf nation being singled out? But Doha misses a key point: The question is not so much about either side’s support for terror as it is about the bigger and more important issue of regional stability. Qatar needs to recognize this fact and refrain from falling victim to its contentious history and the ambitions of its post-1995 leadership that wants Doha to pursue an independent foreign policy and be a major power in the region. Qatar’s failure to stop colluding with destabilizing elements to pursue its regional ambitions will only end up throwing the Middle East into deeper chaos.

Saudi-led bloc drops the list of 13 demands; now calls for six principles

July 20, 2017

Saudi-led bloc drops the list of 13 demands; now calls for six principles, World Affairs Journal, July 19, 2017

(Round and round it goes; where it stops nobody knows. — DM)

Doha skyline

The Peninsula / AP

UNITED NATIONS: Four Arab nations that are blockading Qatar have dropped their list of 13 demands to lift the siege.

Now the Saudi-led countries are urging Qatar to commit to six principles on combatting extremism and negotiate a plan to implement them.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain broke relations with Qatar in early June largely over their allegations that it supports extremist groups — a charge Qatar rejects. They initially made 13 demands, which Qatar said are “unrealistic and is not actionable”.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told a briefing for a group of UN correspondents that the four nations are now committed to the six principles agreed to by their foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo on July 5.

According to Al Jazeera the six principles are:

Commitment to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms and to prevent their financing or providing havens.

Suspending all acts of provocation and speeches inciting hatred or violence.

Full compliance with the Riyadh Agreement of 2013 and the supplementary agreement and its implementation mechanisms of 2014 within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Adherence to all the outcomes of the Arab Islamic American Summit held in May 2017 in Riyadh.

Refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of states and from supporting illegal entities.

The responsibility of all states of the international community to confront all forms of extremism and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security.

Al-Mouallimi said both sides can talk about details of “the tactics” and “the tools” to implement them — “and that’s where we can have discussion and compromise.”

The list of first 13 demands handed to Qatar on 22 June included shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading relations with Iran.

Al-Mouallimi said closing Al-Jazeera might not be necessary.

“If we can achieve that (the principles) without closing down Al-Jazeera, that’s also fine. The important thing is the objective and the principle involved.”

UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy said all the countries involved have strong relations with the United States “and we believe that the Americans have a very constructive and a very important role to play in hopefully creating a peaceful resolution to this current crisis.”

“We hope to be able to resolve this internally and among ourselves with the assistance of strong mediation, whether it’s from the U.S. or the Kuwaitis,” she said.

Diplomats from the four countries who attended the briefing said there have been discussions about possible next steps.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said that “if Qatar is unwilling to accept core principles around what defines terrorism or extremism in our region, it will be very difficult” for it to remain in the Gulf Cooperation Council with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

“So it may be a parting of ways for a little while in order to work things out,” she said.

OPINION: Is the US Secretary of State on Qatar’s side?

July 12, 2017

OPINION: Is the US Secretary of State on Qatar’s side? Al ArabiyaAbdulrahman al-Rashed, July 12, 2017

(Al Arabiya is a Saudi site, but I too have occasionally wondered whose side Secretary Tillerson is on. — DM)

Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson following a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX3B2A2

The four boycotting countries are not the only ones that want to deter Qatar as most of the region’s countries and other countries support this goal and believe Doha is responsible for chaos, extremism and terrorism. The US secretary of state can save Qatar from itself before it suffers the consequences of its malicious actions.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet the angry foreign ministers of the four countries which boycotted Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, in Jeddah on Wednesday. He will be confronting governments that made up their minds as they believe Doha is behind the dangerous unrest. We do not expect these countries to retreat after they made promises and took public measures to hold Doha’s authorities accountable by boycotting them.

Statements and hints made by Tillerson at the press conference in Doha do not reflect optimism as he rather simplified the problem by summing up the solution with signing an agreement in which Doha’s government pledges to fight terrorism. What an accomplishment!

Manipulation

The Qataris tried to manipulate him by confusing the real reasons behind the dispute and protesting over formal points such as revealing the secrets of their commitments in the Riyadh agreement and its annexes. They were embarrassed after they were leaked to CNN because this exposed that everything Qatar said in the international media contradicted its secret commitments. Qatar is of course to blame because it’s the one which began this war of leaks when it revealed the secrets of the four governments’ message pertaining to the Kuwaiti mediation that included 13 demands. Qatar revealed these secrets out of its desire to embarrass these four governments.

What makes Jeddah’s meeting difficult today is that Tillerson seemed inclined to Qatar. What increased suspicions is how he rushed to concluding that Qatar’s demands are reasonable before he even listened to the other involved parties. This raised eyebrows! The secretary of state can be inclined to the Qatari position, if he wants to, but he must realize that this complicates the problem, which is already complicated, and prolongs the crisis. The four boycotting countries have been harmed on the financial, political, media and security levels due to Qatar’s activities and practices, and they have made up their minds especially after recent developments that they think directly target their regimes.

Tillerson cannot impose a reconciliation. However he can narrow distances among the different parties as they are all his allies instead of being biased to one party against another, especially that Qatar is the one which made pledges several times but violated them.

Refusing to change

Tensions will rise as long as Doha’s authorities refuse to change. We know how Doha thinks and deceives others and we’re aware that it does not intend to change amid ordinary circumstances. The four boycotting countries will not back down because they believe they’re defending their existence in a region dominated by chaos, and it does not make sense to fight Iran while letting Qatar’s government threatens their existence and backstabs them. The crisis has clear goals which are deterring Qatar and eliminating its project of change. These four countries will jeopardize their existence and stability if they do not meet these goals. Egypt is launching the biggest war against terrorism in its modern history and it views Qatar as an efficient party which through its secret funding and propaganda via its media channels justifies these terrorist groups’ actions and incites people to rebel against the regime. Saudi Arabia is confronting similar threats and Qatar’s involvement has been proven. The UAE shares the same stance and it addressed this at early stages when it adopted policies that have zero tolerance with extremist groups and their ideology. Bahrain suffered more and it was all due to Qatar. How can Tillerson convince the four countries which are fighting survival wars to reconcile with the responsible party? How long will intentions be tested after Qatar failed so many times?

The four boycotting countries are not the only ones that want to deter Qatar as most of the region’s countries and other countries support this goal and believe Doha is responsible for chaos, extremism and terrorism. The US secretary of state can save Qatar from itself before it suffers the consequences of its malicious actions.

Why has Qatar lost all its credibility?

June 30, 2017

Why has Qatar lost all its credibility? Al ArabiyaMondher Thabet, June 30, 2017

I think Qatar’s decision to throw itself in Turkey’s arms falls within the context of a project that unites it with the Brotherhood and that extends to political Islamist movements including the Supreme Leader’s rule in Iran. The presence of a Turkish military base and Turkish soldiers in Doha aims to protect Emir Tamim bin Hamad himself from any action that aims to rectify the situation in the Qatar and does not aim to protect Qatar.

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Qatar has completely lost credibility just like Al Jazeera channel and other media platforms that had mastered the art of misleading and spreading lies.

It seemed it adopted the principle of “divide and rule” and was influenced by Nazi minister Joseph Goebbels’ law of propaganda: “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”

The world has been living through a moral crisis since the beginning of the 1990s. Qatar exploited it to serve its suspicious agenda by paying huge sums of money to buy politicians, intelligence and media figures, intellectuals and research and studies centers. It gathered them to forge facts and to help it reach decision makers in some influential countries to serve its project to sabotage Arab and Islamic countries through terrorist and extremist groups.

At some point, Qatar went as far as deceiving international intelligence apparatuses through reports submitted by hired agents. Their data was supported by media reports, which Qatar paid for to justify its destructive agenda in Arab countries like Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen.

Supporting terror outfits

Qatar supported the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and supported terrorist groups in Bahrain. Systematic terrorism against the Egyptian state is what led Libya to its current deteriorating situation as Qatar supported foreign militias that violated the law just like it supported terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

In 2011, Qatari officials thought Doha was capable of bringing down Arab regimes from “ocean to Gulf” and replace them with extremist regimes in which the terrorist Brotherhood movement and al-Qaeda organization ally. However, people woke up from their slumber and realized that Qatar’s agenda was planned in dark rooms to put the entire Arab world under the control of foreign powers in order to control the nation’s capabilities and riches.

The 2013 June 30 revolution, which the Egyptian people led against the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, destroyed the biggest part of Qatar’s conspiracy against the region. This conspiracy had targeted all Arab countries. The current Gulf and Arab position is meant to destroy whatever is left of this Qatari destructive agenda.

I think Qatar’s decision to throw itself in Turkey’s arms falls within the context of a project that unites it with the Brotherhood and that extends to political Islamist movements including the Supreme Leader’s rule in Iran. The presence of a Turkish military base and Turkish soldiers in Doha aims to protect Emir Tamim bin Hamad himself from any action that aims to rectify the situation in the Qatar and does not aim to protect Qatar.

Because Qatari policies began to eat everything away, it is time to purge the Arab and Gulf region and the world in general from its harm.
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Mondher Thabet is a Tunisian politician and a political analyst on several television channels.

Qatar’s Comeuppance

June 15, 2017

Qatar’s Comeuppance, Gatestone InstituteRuthie Blum, June 15, 2017

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

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Putting Doha on the Well-Deserved Defensive

Qatar’s extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand,” and harbors “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda.”

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

A mere two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his first major foreign policy speech in Riyadh to delegates from dozens Muslim/Arab countries, Bahrain announced on June 5 that it was halting all flights to Qatar for being a sponsor of radical Islamist terrorists. Immediately, Saudi Arabia joined the boycott, as did the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Yemen, all of which also shut off access to Al Jazeera, the anti-American, anti-Semitic Qatari television network established in 1996 and operating since then to foment unrest across the Middle East and bolster the terrorist organization the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas.

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and other officials in Doha fiercely denied the charge that their government has been backing terrorism, blaming a “fake news” report on the website of the state-controlled Qatar News Agency for the eruption of the Gulf crisis.

The report, which the FBI and other U.S. security agencies believe was the result of a Russian hacking attack, quoted Al Thani calling Iran an “Islamic power,” referring to Hamas as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and saying Qatar’s relations with Israel were “good.”

Although the report did turn out to be a hoax, Qatar’s extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented. A Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) study, titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Private Funders of al-Qaeda in Syria,” shows that while Doha has pretended for more than a decade to be partnering with the United States to defeat Al Qaeda, the monarchy, in fact, has taken no action whatsoever against the Qatari financiers of the terrorist organization’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, which continues to plot attacks against the West. One of the reasons that this group eluded U.S. strikes operating in Syria was that it, like America, has been fighting ISIS. Another was that it changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS or the Front for the Conquest of Syria), in an effort to distance itself from Al Qaeda. This effort was led by Qatar.

According to the FDD study, the second of a three-part document written by David Andrew Weinberg:

“…[I]ntelligence officials from Qatar and other Gulf states met several times with Nusra’s leader [in 2015] to suggest that his group could receive money, arms, and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaeda.”

While the first part of the study, released in 2014, revealed “Doha’s dismal record” during the reign of Emir Hamad Al Thani (the current monarch’s father), this one

“evaluates the publicly available evidence on Qatar’s record since then, focusing primarily on individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2015. All of these sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014, as part of a U.S.-led initiative called the Jeddah Communiqué, to bring terror financiers to justice.”

Weinberg concluded that Qatar has done little or nothing to comply. On the contrary, he wrote, “The funders of certain terrorist groups still enjoy legal impunity there. Nusra/JFS appears to be foremost among them.”

It is just as unlikely that a single news item was responsible for the banding together of several Arab states to impose a blockade on Qatar as it is implausible that these states, particularly Saudi Arabia — which itself has backed and spread radical Islamist ideology — are holding Qatar accountable for its ties to global jihad. Equally simplistic is the view, expressed by Trump on Twitter, that the embargo indicated the seriousness with which the above states took his call to “drive out the terrorists and extremists” from their midst.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!” Trump tweeted on June 7.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

This prompted pundits on both sides of the political spectrum to question whether Trump was simply being reckless in his response, or actually announcing a shift in decades of U.S. policy regarding Qatar, home of the Al Udeid Air Base southwest of Doha. Al Udeid is not only America’s largest military base in the Middle East — with some 10,000 troops, but since 2003, it has served as forward headquarters for CENTCOM (the U.S. Central Command), and has been crucial in America’s operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The following day, Trump was accused of backtracking, when he phoned Al Thani and offered to “help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary.”

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick pointed out that this was not a case of Trump reversing his position, but rather of proposing the most reasonable course of action available:

“With the Pentagon dependent on the Qatari base, and with no clear path for unseating the emir through war or coup without risking a much larger and more dangerous conflict, the only clear option is a negotiated resolution.

“Under the circumstances, the best option for the US to openly work towards is to diminish Qatar’s regional profile and financial support for Iran and its terrorist allies and proxies.”

Nevertheless, mixed messages appeared to be emerging from the Trump administration. On June 9, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the blockade was hindering U.S. operations against ISIS. On the same day, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis asserted that the isolation of Qatar so far has had no negative impact on U.S. operations in and out of Al Udeid. “All of our supplies are getting in just fine,” he told reporters. “The Defense Logistics Agency is certainly always looking at contingency plans if they’re needed, but for right now they’re OK.”

On the day that these conflicting claims began to circulate, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand,” and harbors “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda.”

Bygone days of unity. The leaders of the Gulf states pose with British PM Theresa May at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, on December 7, 2016 in Manama, Bahrain. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

On June 7 — the day of Trump’s phone call and two days before the release of the Saudi statement — Qatar hired of the law firm of John Ashcroft, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, to help counter terror accusations. This clearly was a calculated move, as Ashcroft had been instrumental in pushing through the post-9/11 “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,” more commonly known as the Patriot Act.

According to the “Scope of Engagement” of the Ashcroft retainer, its “broad purpose,” for a “flat fee” of $250,000, is to:

“provid[e] the Client with comprehensive strategic advice, legal counsel, support, and representation related to confirming, educating, assessing and reporting the Client’s efforts to combat global terrorism and its support of and compliance with international financial regulations, including compliance with United States Treasury rules and regulations.

“The firm understands the urgency of this matter and need to communicate accurate information to both a broad constituency and certain domestic agencies and leaders…will advance, advocate, represent, and protect the Client’s interests as necessary, including but not limited to the development of comprehensive legal and government affairs strategy, coordination as necessary and in the interest of the Client, assessment of the pending news and certain nations’ claims that adversely impact the Client’s reputation and pose serious risk and consequences.”

Hiring Ashcroft is not the only indication that Qatar is running scared. Another is its leaders’ simultaneous attempt to assuage fears among its populace – reported to have begun “panic-shopping” at supermarkets — and threaten fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries that they will suffer severe financial consequences as a result of their boycott.

“If we’re going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also,” warned Qatari Finance minister Ali Shareef Al Emadi. Emadi added, “Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don’t think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what’s happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal.”

In spite of Emadi’s posturing and Doha’s assertion that it is not in cahoots with Iran, Tehran announced that it has begun sending hundreds of tons of food products to Qatar. Oman, too, is transferring goods to Doha. Turkey went a step further, authorizing the dispatch of 3,000-5,000 troops to its military base in Qatar, to assist Al Thani’s regime, should it be jeopardized by the Saudi-led initiative and internal power struggles.

This unfolding of events is creating what Middle East expert Jonathan Speyer called a “clear drawing” of the “lines of confrontation between the two central power blocs in the region…”

As Speyer wrote on June 10:

“The shunting aside of little Qatar… is ultimately only a detail in the larger picture. What is more significant is the re-emergence of an overt alliance of Sunni Arab states under US leadership, following the development of military capabilities in relevant areas, and with the stated intention of challenging the Iranian regional advance and Sunni political Islam.”

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

Ruthie Blum is a journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the ‘Arab Spring.'”

White House: Middle East Crisis Sparked By Trump’s Demand to End Support for Extremists Groups

June 13, 2017

White House: Middle East Crisis Sparked By Trump’s Demand to End Support for Extremists Groups, Washington Free Beacon, , June 13, 2017

(Please see also, Military crisis in Qatar may spark Gaza outbreak — DM)

US President Donald Trump (R) and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A percolating crisis in the Middle East over a top U.S. military ally’s support for extremist terror groups was ignited by President Donald Trump’s demand that U.S. allies in the Arab world end their support for Islamic extremism, according to senior U.S. officials familiar with the situation.

Trump is seeking a more active role in mediating a growing dispute between leading Arab nations and Qatar, a U.S. counterterrorism ally that has long provided financial support to the very terror groups it has vowed to fight.

Trump’s recent trip to the Middle East—where he publicly and privately urged top Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia to crackdown on Islamic extremism—is said to have sparked a regional dispute with Qatar, thrusting the country’s issues with terrorism financing into the spotlight, sources told the Washington Free Beacon.

U.S. officials, both inside and outside the White House, have long avoided the thorny issue of Qatar’s support for terrorism in an effort to preserve military relations with the country, which hosts a major U.S. air base that is a central front in the war against terror.

Trump’s focus on Qatar is said to be part of a larger regional strategy that focuses on strangling financial support for terror organizations that long benefited from Arab governments turning a blind eye to the issue.

Trump’s push to crackdown on this type of behavior—not just in Qatar—is said to have fueled the diplomatic break with Qatar earlier this month, which saw several leading Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia ceasing all diplomatic ties with the energy-rich nation.

U.S. officials and administration insiders who spoke with the Free Beacon about the situation said that Trump is seeking to play an active role in helping to mediate the crisis and shutdown Qatar’s financing of terror groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

“Look, last month President Trump visited Riyadh and gave a historic speech challenging America’s Arab friends and partners to do more to combat the violent radicalization that is growing within Islam,” one senior administration official told the Free Beacon.

“And the fact of the matter is that even though Qatar has been an important partner in some areas, they’ve also been a significant source of terrorist financing,” said the official, who would only speak on background when discussing the sensitive diplomatic issue. “What you’re seeing now is a regional response to the president’s challenge, and Qatar is going to have to respond as well.”

Trump’s stance against Islamic extremism and willingness to call out state backers of the movement has forced U.S. officials, particularly those in the Department of Defense, to address an issue that has been downplayed in pursuit of preserving diplomatic relations with Qatar and other Arab nations, sources said.

The hope is this will result in concrete change, which has been elusive in recent years as nations such as Qatar play both sides of the terror issue.

“American policy in the Gulf has been a bipartisan failure for over a decade. For different reasons, both parties found reasons to ignore terror financing coming out of the Gulf,” said one veteran foreign policy official who has been briefed by White House officials on Trump’s Gulf region strategy.

“Even when Obama officials did talk about terror financing, they used it as an excuse to pressure the Saudis and others to cut off legitimate anti-Assad forces,” the source said. “President Trump has been clear to our allies and adversaries that the incoherence has to end. He called on the Arab world to clean house, and what you’re seeing is the beginning of that.”

Trump discussed the issue in Monday remarks at a White House cabinet meeting, where he emphasized that terror-financing issues have became a central focus for the United States.

“One of the big things we did, and your seeing it now with Qatar and all of the things that are actually going on in a very positive fashion, we are stopping the funding of terrorism,” Trump said. “They’re going to stop the funding of terrorism. And it’s not an easy fight, but it’s a fight we’re going to win. You have to starve the beast, and we’re going to starve the beast.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has walked a more diplomatic line of the issue, in a move sources characterized as a “good-cop-bad-cop” ploy.

State Department officials would not comment on Trump’s latest remarks about Qatar, referring a reporter to Tillerson’s public remarks last week.

“Qatar has a history of supporting groups that have spanned the spectrum of political expression, from activism to violence,” Tillerson said. “The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country, but he must do more and he must do it more quickly.”