updated 1:42 PM MDT, Jun 27, 2017

Qatar crisis: Is Saudi Arabia supporting terror also?


ONE is a religious extremist who has issued a call for Americans to be killed and another is a former Hamas chief who has been called a “dear guest” in Qatar.

Together, they’re enough reason for seven Gulf nations to turn their backs on Qatar in an unprecedented move.

Having had enough of Qatar not toeing the line, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives sensationally cut off ties with its wayward neighbour this week.

They accused Qatar of supporting Islamist groups, including some backed by Iran, as well as harbouring extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

While Qatar has no doubt supported Islamist and extremist groups, Saudi Arabia is far from innocent. Therein lies the hypocrisy.


Riyadh, the capital, has itself faced accusations of tolerating or even supporting extremists, in particular after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

And in some cases there’s evidence to suggest Saudi Arabia has supported or co-sponsored some of the same figures it has accused its own neighbour of supporting.
Doha remains ostracised after nations including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism. Picture: AFP

Doha remains ostracised after nations including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

THE FIGURES

Among Saudi’s biggest gripes is Qatar’s support for figures such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Islamist theologian and the “unofficial ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood”.

According to non-profit policy organisation the Counter Extremism Project, the Doha-based cleric — known for his extremist rhetoric and militant fatwas and is one of Sunni Islam’s most influential scholars.

He’s been offered a leadership role within the Brotherhood but has refused and doesn’t want to limit his reach by joining any organisation that might “constrain (his) actions”.

The Egyptian-born figure has been banned from visiting the US, UK and France due to his reputation as a violence-inciting Islamist, the CEP report.

Al-Qaradawi has been open about urging Muslims who are unable to fight jihad to financially support the mujahedeen, supported suicide bombings, and has called for the execution of Americans in Iraq, homosexuals and Jewish people.

Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal is also on the list.
Controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi lives in Qatar. Picture: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

Controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi lives in Qatar. Picture: Graeme Robertson/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Exiled Chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau Khaled Meshaal is also based in Qatar. Picture: Karim Jaafar/AFP

Exiled Chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau Khaled Meshaal is also based in Qatar. Picture: Karim Jaafar/AFPSource:AFP

Living in Qatar, he has acted as the public face of Hamas for more than a decade and according to the CEP has overseen Hamas’ transition from a purely terrorist organisation into a terrorist/political hybrid.”

Once called a “dear guest” in Qatar by a Qatari diplomat, Meshaal has been involved in a power struggle within the group and continues to push for “armed resistance” against Israel in its pursuit of the “liberation” of Palestine “from the river to the sea”.

THE TERROR GROUPS

Middle East expert Dr Ben Rich said the Saudi terrorism excuse was wearing thin.

He also said there is fairly strong evidence that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have backed jabhat al-Nusra/Sham as well as other Islamist opposition actors in the Syrian conflict, many of whom are consolidated under the wider Ahrar al-Sham coalition.

The Nusra Front is the second-strongest insurgent group in Syria after Islamic State, according to the CEP.

Interestingly, the terror group receives sources of funding from private donations from wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, the CEP reveal.

But it is understood the group racked up millions of dollars through hostage exchanges negotiated by the Qatari government.
President Donald Trump, pictured with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in Riyadh, last month. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump, pictured with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in Riyadh, last month. Picture: Evan Vucci/APSource:AP

THE CRISIS

The Middle East was plunged into its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after Saudi Arabia and six other countries cut ties with Qatar following weeks of tension in the region.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives all severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, which has been accused of supporting Islamic groups.

They accuse the tiny Gulf state of harbouring extremist groups and suggested Qatari support for the agenda of Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival Iran.

Just this week, the CEP revealed the full extent of how Qatar has been financing and harbouring a dozen terrorists and operatives who have been living freely — and in some cases, in luxury — within oil-rich Qatar.

In its latest reports, Qatar: Extremism and Counter-Extremism and Qatar, Money and Terror: Doha’s Dangerous Policies, the CEP said Qatar gives financial and material support to internationally-designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Nusra Front.

“Qatar is also currently harbouring at least 12 sanction-designated or wanted individuals, including former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi,” the CEP said.

The CEP said Qatar “knowingly permits internationally-designated or wanted terrorist leaders and financiers to operate within its borders” and in doing so undermined regional and international security.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives all announced they were cutting ties with gas-rich Qatar over accusations it supported extremism. Picture: Karim Jaafar/AFP

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives all announced they were cutting ties with gas-rich Qatar over accusations it supported extremism. Picture: Karim Jaafar/AFPSource:AFP

“The Qatari government has lent support to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nusra Front, and the Taliban — through direct money loans, ransom payments, and the transfer of supplies,” the CEP said.

Three UN sanctioned Taliban operatives and at least seven al-Qaeda financiers are also understood to be living in the country.

LONG LIST

Saudi Arabia on Friday issued a Qatar-linked ‘terrorism’ list, which it claims show its neighbour isn’t doing enough to stop terrorism in the region.

The list contains at least two names already designated internationally as terrorist financiers, and against whom Qatar took action, according to a previous US Department of State report.

Those two, Sa’d al-Ka’bi and Abd al-Latif al-Kawari, are among dozens of individuals and entities named by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain.

“The four countries agreed on categorising 59 persons and 12 entities in their list of terrorism,” they said, affirming “that they won’t be lenient in pursuing” such persons and groups.

But along with Qataris, many on the list are individuals and groups from Egypt, Bahrain and Libya.

It could also be argued that Qatar has been taking some steps to eradiate terrorism.

In its latest Country Reports on Terrorism, the US State Department said Qatar in 2015 froze assets and imposed travel bans on Ka’bi and Kawari, both of whom are Qatari citizens.

“Despite these efforts, entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorist and violent extremist groups, particularly regional Al-Qaeda affiliates such as the Nusrah Front,” the State Department said.

“Qatar has made efforts to prosecute significant terrorist financiers.”

- with wires

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