Iran-Qatar rapprochement and fueling of terrorism

Sawsan Al Shaer
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Last week, security forces arrested members of a Bahraini institution called the Manama Human Rights Observatory that works under the pretext of defending human rights.

This incident raised a series of questions: Does the Iranian-Qatari rapprochement have any negative repercussions on Bahrain’s security and stability? Is this a new rapprochement and happened as a reaction to the decision to boycott Qatar? Or is this an old agreement that was secret and it recently became public?

The institution whose members were arrested had held seminars and workshops in Lebanon and Geneva and issued statements against the security forces in Bahrain. The investigation proved that this institution received financial support through a Bahraini man who works for Hezbollah and lives in Lebanon. It also turned out that the Lebanese Hezbollah funds and supports many people who are affiliated with other alleged human-rights organizations by holding conferences that include international organizations.

The investigation also showed that one of the female suspects who was arrested by Bahrain and who exploited working in the human-rights field in that Bahraini institution communicated and cooperated with Al-Karama Foundation, a Qatari human rights organization, whose chief was named on the terror list issued by the countries boycotting Qatar.

The US Treasury had also included him on its terror lists and froze his assets and funds in 2013 due to his ties with the terrorist al-Qaeda organization. According to the investigation, this man also exploited Al-Karama’s human rights’ cover to support many terrorist organizations, including the Bahraini one.

If the international community is serious about combating terrorism and about restraining Iran, as it is “a major supporter of terrorism,” it will not succeed unless it tightens supervision over Qatar as both of them work together to fuel the conflict in the Middle East

Sawsan Al Shaer

‘Mutual interest’

The question here is what brought these two different parties, an Iranian and a Qatari organization, together to support the same Bahraini institution? What’s the “mutual interest” that brought a terrorist organization supported by Iran and a Qatari organization that supports al-Qaeda together with a Bahraini institution?

What’s noteworthy is that the investigation showed that communication between the three parties has been still on until the members of that Bahraini cell were arrested last week, i.e. after the quartet of Arab countries decided to boycott Qatar.

After Qatar said that it has nothing to do with terrorist groups, the cell, whose members were recently arrested, proved that Qatar and Iran are working together to try and harm Bahrain. The cell showed Iran and Qatar and al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have a lot in common and that Bahrain is one of their most important mutual affairs.

Qatar and Iran do not only work in Bahrain to undermine security and fuel conflict but they also work in Yemen as a US State Department report proved that Iran still supports the Houthis and supplies them with arms while Qatar supports al-Qaeda there. Both of them work against legitimacy in Yemen.

In December 2013, the US Treasury submitted a report that stipulates that al-Karama provided financial support to terrorist organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. This means that al-Karama is actually a bridge to transfer Qatari money to these groups.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies published a report entitled Qatar and Terror Finance. It confirmed that Qatar continues to financially support charity organizations and that the latter still operate although they have not attained licenses to resume their work.

Beyond Qatari control

The US State Department report proved that these organizations are beyond international and Qatari control. An organization called Qatar Charity is also accused of providing financial support to terrorism in Syria and Yemen.

The report said that Qatar Charity provided financial aid to terrorist groups in Yemen under the cover of carrying out charity projects, adding that a little contemplation in the names and parties working on these projects is enough to realize the true path of these donations.

Iran and Qatar also work together in Syria. Everyone is aware of the support which Iran provides to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Shiite armed militias. Meanwhile, Qatar provides support to many Sunni armed organizations such as al-Nusra Front and others, and it provides this support under the cover of humanitarian aid or direct political support.

The most interesting affair that they are also involved in is undermining the Palestinian Authority by supporting Hamas as its rival.

Iranian-Qatari rapprochement is nothing new. They have mutual aims and interests such as “undermining security in the region” by supporting armed organizations and aiding groups that logistically help them under the cover of charity work or defending human rights.

If the international community is serious about combating terrorism and about restraining Iran, as it is “a major supporter of terrorism,” it will not succeed unless it tightens supervision over Qatar as both of them work together to fuel the conflict in the Middle East. Therefore, Iranian-Qatari rapprochement must be monitored and observed.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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