After years of harboring and financing terrorists, destabilizing the Gulf region and broadcasting terrorist-sympathetic propaganda, Qatar has finally been called to account by other Arab nations, which have presented 13 demands. Qatar can respond in one of two ways – by joining its neighbors in the fight against terror or by retreating further into its outlaw status, becoming a pariah state.
The option Qatar choses will determine its fate and the fate of the region.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have demanded that Qatar cut diplomatic ties with Iran, sever its links to terror organizations, stop funding terrorists, hand over the terror figures it harbors and end its contact with political opposition groups in neighboring countries.
‘North Korea of the Middle East’
These are reasonable demands. They uphold a principle that all nations should respect: the rule of law. If Qatar cannot honor this basic tenet, it will become the North Korea of the Middle East, shunned by the world and befriended only by belligerent powers such as Iran and Turkey.
The groups that Qatar backs include radical militias and terrorist organizations, including Al Nusra and the Muslim Brotherhood. These are non-state actors with horrific and bloody histories. Qatar uses organizations such as these to project influence in Syria, Libya and elsewhere, undermining international efforts for peace and stability in those places.
Qatar’s disruptive policies particularly involve Iran, a known sponsor of terror in the region. Iran supports Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hamas in Gaza. In 2011, Qatar infamously refrained from criticizing Iran’s interference in Bahrain’s domestic politics even as fellow Gulf states condemned Iran’s meddling.
The very terrorists that Qatar hosts may one day turn on Qatar if it fails to serve their fanatical ends. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have made their demands clear. They will not tolerate Qatar’s actions forever. Qatar has a choice to make and it must be made soon.Khalid A. J. Al Khalifa
Qatar has established a close relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has alarmed officials in both the Gulf region and Washington. The Revolutionary Guard is under US sanctions and recent reports indicate that the Trump administration is considering designating it a terrorist organization.
Several official meetings took place between the Qatari armed forces and their counterparts in the Revolutionary Guard. In 2010, Revolutionary Guard general Alireza Nasseri met Qatar Navy general Mohamed Nasser Mubarak al-Mohannadi and said: “The presence of the [Guard’s] fleet of warships in Doha and the warm welcome it received indicates the depth of bilateral relations between Iran and Qatar.”
In addition to its close ties to Iran, Qatar has a long relationship with Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. In 2010, former Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani toured Hezbollah’s Lebanese stronghold and funded several projects there. Qatar has maintained the relationship despite Hezbollah’s bloody campaigns in the Syrian war.
Qatar has a choice to make
Qatar staged a $1 billion hostage deal as a cover to fund radical militias in Iraq and Syria, including the Kta’eb Hezbollah in Iraq, which is linked to the Lebanese organization. Recently, Qatar lifted visa requirements for Lebanese citizens knowing it would open the gate for Hezbollah terrorists to threaten the US’s Al Udeid Air Base, 20 miles southwest of Doha, home to 11,000 American military personnel.
Amplifying all of Qatar’s terrorist and terrorist-sympathetic behavior is its state-owned Al Jazeera television and online network. Al Jazeera has given a platform to global terrorists, including Osama bin Laden and Al Nusra leader Al Jolani. How can a nation be truly committed to fighting global terrorism, as Qatar says it is, if it gives a megaphone to notorious terrorists? This is why shuttering Al Jazeera is on the list of demands presented to Qatar.
Qatar is on its way to becoming a hub for regional terror. In addition to transforming itself into an outcast nation, Qatar does not seem to realize that terror groups are unreliable partners. The very terrorists that Qatar hosts may one day turn on Qatar if it fails to serve their fanatical ends. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have made their demands clear. They will not tolerate Qatar’s actions forever. Qatar has a choice to make and it must be made soon.
Khalid A. J. Al Khalifa is a nonresident security analyst of the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat).