Fecteau: Qatar’s Terror Paradise
Tuesday, June 06, 2017
Past visitors to Qatar know it has a little bit of good, bad, and everything in between. Want a beer? You can get completely hammered at the Irish Harp Doha (closed for Ramadan, sorry); Shisha lounge with a tad of culture? Check out Souq Waqif in downtown Doha; want to join a terrorist organization? Plenty of those too; seeking to overthrow a government? Yup, you guessed it, Qatar.
While nominally (if not laughably) under a liberal version of Sharia law, the Sunni-monarch ruled Qatar has created an oasis for Islamists, the rich, and powerful. Qatar has also made a killing off its oil revenue and used its petrodollars to finance its infrastructure (including a Doha metro system), make it a premier destination for tourism, project its power abroad, and support anyone that will expand its influence. After millions in bribes, Qatar has become home to the 2022 World Cup games (rumor has it the stadium will be air conditioned at the expense of many lives lost to slave labor).
Qatar is taking a sucker punch to the groin as of late because of its flirtation with other nation states, and terror groups. Over the last couple days, a number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, cut ties with Qatar over its alleged relationship with terrorism. Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia, and many of its own Arab partners have been accused of having similar ties to – perhaps lower tier — terror groups.
This is a calculated move based more on Arab state interests in the region mixed in with some U.S. national security concerns. The most probable reason for the international gut check to Qatar is its cozy relationship with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, sworn enemies of the Saudi government. Saudi Arabia is upset Qatar isn’t friendly enough with the right terrorists – the ones supported by Saudi Arabia. Terrorism is alright to Saudi Arabia so long as it is the Saudi endorsed brand of terrorism – funny how that works.
The U.S.’s relationship with Qatar is even more complex. After the majority of U.S. forces withdrew from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait became home to the logistical hub, transportation pipeline, and base of operations for the troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Qatar is in fact home to one of the largest U.S. bases in the Greater Middle East — Al Udeid Air Base – which the Qatar government spent approximately a billion to build in the 1990s. The United States has around 11,000 service members station there, along with a lot of Patriot missiles for defense.
In the murky world of diplomacy, sometimes you cannot tell your friend from your foe, and the United States’ relationship with Qatar epitomizes that fact. This push back from the Arab community should come as no surprise to President Donald Trump, especially after his meeting with the Saudi monarchs (he likely received a warning).
This works out well for the United States. Instead of the United States pressuring the Qatari government to end its relationship with terrorists, risking the loss of a key base, Mr. Trump and his administration have the Arab governments do their dirty work for them. The Trump administration is hoping other Arab nation states will compel Qatar to cease its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and rein in ties to certain terrorist organizations – but not at the expense of U.S. national interests throughout the region.
This is power politics at its finest.
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