Qatar’s counterterrorism posture falls far short of what it promised

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Qatar came out with a list of groups and actors that it considers as falling into the ‘terrorist’ category after some coaxing from the US, as well as the considerable pressure from an Arab quartet comprised of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

Commenting on the latest move, David A. Weinberg writes on the Anti-Defamation League’s website that “Qatar’s list provides striking substance to its ruler’s 2014 declaration that his country has a rather different view of what constitutes terrorism than countries such as America.”

Weinberg points out that Qatar’s new terrorism list “still falls short in some crucial regard, omitting those terrorist groups responsible for the greatest number of fatalities in America, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, for example.”

He says the efforts to designate terrorists “still contain so many problematic holes that the country’s counterterrorism posture could also be likened to Swiss cheese.”

Reluctant move

On the positive side, is the fact the combined pressure from Washington and the Arab quartet, found some reluctant moves by Doha.

Qatar’s first announcement under a US Memorandum of Understanding on combating terrorist financing came in October sanctioning 11 individuals, a charity, and one company in Yemen for ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the ISIS’s Yemeni branch. That list included a former Qatari government official who once was in-charge of a provincial branch of AQAP.

Now by issuing a second list of designations on March 21 under its new legal framework, Weinberg points out that Qatar now seems to be inching closer to the positions of its Gulf neighbors by issuing a new list of banned terrorist entities that go beyond Yemen, designating individuals in Qatar and multiple other countries, as well as an actual terrorist group and “not just commercial institutions accused of serving as terrorist fronts.”

Although outwardly a positive step, Weinberg writes that this is “a limited one”.

Although Qatar is a founding member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Weinberg points out that yet its new list of banned terrorist groups “does not include the ISIS’s central branch in Syria and Iraq. Only the group’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula is proscribed by Qatar’s new list, a significant omission given that ISIS branches and loyalists carried out attacks in over 20 countries in 2016 alone.”

“Also excluded from the list is Muthanna al-Dhari, an Iraqi subject to a UN travel ban for allegedly funding ISIS’s forerunner, al-Qaeda in Iraq, to the tune of over a million dollars. Al-Dhari has been let into Qatar numerous times – including in the last year – and was hugged and kissed by Emir Tamim’s father in 2015.”

Weinberg finds it puzzling the absence of even a single terrorist group in Syria or Iraq from Qatar’s lists, given Emir Tamim’s assertion in 2014 that Qatar does indeed consider at least “certain movements” in Syria and Iraq to be terrorists.

Qatar’s terrorism list omits a range of South Asian terrorist organizations, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Group, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. F Qatari territory has time and again been used to raise funds for these terror outfits.

Nor is Hezbollah on the new terrorism list issued by Qatar, even though the Gulf Cooperation Council had in 2016 labeled the organization as terrorist. Nor are any other Iranian-backed terror groups, such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq or Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, or Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Weinberg says Qatar’s continued refusal to designate these organizations as such publicly – even after creating detailed regulations for doing so and applying those regulations to dozens of entities – will undoubtedly feed existing uncertainty as to whether Doha truly stands opposed to major terrorist groups.

Weinberg says since the contents of its terror finance memorandum with the US is “still a closely held secret”, and therefore it is “impossible for outside observers to assess whether or not Qatar’s first public, multinational terrorism list helps fulfill the letter of that agreement.”

Qatar support for hate speech

The government of Qatar continues to support extremist preachers who engage in hate speech and anti-Semitic incitement, a post on the Anti-Defamation League’s blog has said.

According to the blog on the ADL website, in a sermon in December 2017, preacher Muhammed al-Muraikhi told the Muslim world that Jews have “enmity and hatred to you in their blood and their veins”.

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He charged that Jews would never be satisfied with concessions from Palestinians or with “so-called coexistence” and called upon all Muslims to “cleanse” al-Aqsa from “the filth” of the Jews.

In a sermon in December 2017, preacher Muhammed al-Muraikhi described the Jewish people as “your deceitful, lying, treacherous, fornicating, intransigent enemy” who “has despoiled, corrupted, ruined, and killed, and will not stop.”

Palestinian resistance

“Despite all that the Zionists do and all that Satan helps them with support and assistance and providing weapons and everything they ask for,” he praised the Palestinians for their resistance.

In the blog, David A. Weinberg warned that despite Qatar’s pledge to control what is being said in their mosques, a prominent platform is given to extremist preachers, who “promote strident anti-Semitic” views.

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Weinberg also mentioned the case of another Qatari hate preacher, Abdullah al-Naama, who delivered an extremist sermon at the Grand Mosque on July 21st, 2017, in which he charged that “hypocrites” within the Muslim community resort “to the Jews and the polytheists as a refuge.”

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