Inside Qatar’s $20+ million a year lobbying effort in Washington

U.S.-Islamic World Forum | Flickr

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel,  Sept. 13, 2017:

The small Gulf nation of Qatar is investing millions of dollars into influential Washington, D.C., lobbying groups in order to rehabilitate its image with the American people and the Western world. As proven ties to terrorist groups and actors continue to mount, Qatar is now relying on an aggressive public relations campaign to solve its predicament.

Qatar is in the middle of a fierce diplomatic row with its neighbors over its alleged support for terrorist groups and its coziness with the terrorist regime in Iran. Neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE contend that Qatar is playing a double game with its allies, and the two nations have joined Arab nations in imposing a diplomatic and economic boycott of Doha.

Qatar refutes the allegations by claiming that they act as an intermediary for groups that would otherwise be unreachable to Western governments, such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.

The diplomatic issue has put the United States in an uncomfortable position, given that Doha’s Al-Udeid Air Base serves as the headquarters of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and hosts over 11,000 U.S. personnel. But Qatar’s dealings with nefarious actors and clear-cut jihadists has not only infuriated neighbors, but caused many Americans (such as President Trump himself) to demand that our CENTCOM partner stop providing safe haven to terrorists and their enablers.

Time and time again Qatar has promised to address these concerns and rein in the extremist elements inside its borders. However, intelligence continues to trickle out supporting detractors’ claims that Qatar not only continues to support terrorists, but also has high-ranking members of its government and society involved in arming and funding jihadists in Syria, Gaza, and elsewhere.

Western officials have alleged that Qatar is not only the foremost supporter of Hamas and the al-Qaeda-connected Al Nusra front, but also the Islamic State.

Currently, according to the UAE government, there are at least six different entities and 37 al-Qaeda operatives living in Qatar. Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project reports that “Qatar is so hospitable to Al-Qaeda that Osama Bin Laden advised his son, Hamza, to move there as he prepared to step into his father’s shoes.”

Qatar is currently home to Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has called for suicide bombings against American soldiers stationed in the Middle East. Moreover, Qatar has long been the established residence of the chairman of Hamas. In June, Interpol listed 26 terrorists residing in Qatar who were wanted by foreign governments for extradition.

Given that Qatar hasn’t shown much interest in reforming its most fundamentalist elements, the cash-rich ruling monarchy there has decided to dump millions of dollars into a P.R. effort in the United States to boost its image with the decision makers in Washington.

Qatar now has multi-million dollar lobbying contracts with seven different Washington lobbying firms. Lobbyists are tasked with smoothing over (whitewashing) Qatar’s record on various issues, from its troubling terror ties to its diplomatic positioning to even its relationship with the Jewish community (which is troubled by its overt support for Hamas, which seeks to wipe out the state of Israel).

Republican, Democrat, and non-partisan focus firms have been deployed to work on Qatar’s behalf. Politico reports that Qatar was spending over $1.7 million a month ($20 million annually) on its lobbying — and that was before it inked its seventh contract on Sept. 3 with Stonington Strategies.

Doha is also moving boatloads of cash over to D.C. think tanks, seeking to influence the debate within Washington’s academics and elitist society.

Between 2011 and 2014, Qatar pledged at least $21.6 million to the center-left Brookings Institution. In 2014, Qatar agreed to “donate” another $14.8 million over four years to Brookings. Scholars there have admitted on the record that they cannot take “positions critical of the Qatari government in papers,” accordingto The New York Times.

In addition to Brookings, the influential, relatively non-partisan Rand Corporation recently completed a decade-long partnership with Qatar.

While Qatar’s lobbying efforts are centered in Washington, they’re also determined to reach a broader audience in the academic world, through collaborative projects with some of America’s top universities.

With mounds of evidence showing direct ties to terror, and having a leadership that does not intend on entertaining true reform, it remains to be seen whether Qatar will succeed in efforts to pay its way out of its current image crisis.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.

Exploiting the fault lines of Islamic terrorism

Family Security Matters, by Lawrence Sellin, Sept.8, 2017:

The U.S. has largely viewed Islamic terrorism as a monolithic threat with varying degrees of extremism distributed among various geographic locations.

We have often not adequately appreciated the historical, ideological and geopolitical subtleties underlying Islamic terrorism and, consequently, missed opportunities to enhance our national security by effectively pitting one faction against another, if not by defeat, then by disruption.

For example, an extraordinary and mostly unnoticed diplomatic démarche occurred in Kabul on August 7, 2017, when the senior Saudi diplomat in Afghanistan, Charge d’affairs Mishari al-Harbi, accused Qatar of supporting Taliban “armed terrorists” even though Saudi Arabia itself had long been a financial backer of the Taliban and, together with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), officially recognized the group when it assumed control of Afghanistan in 1996.

At a high level, that event can be traced back to the centuries-old conflict between Sunni and Shia Islam upon which modern geopolitical interests are layered.

The basis of the Saudi action, however, was a continuation of the June 2017 diplomatic breakdown among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and isolation of Qatar, initially by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Eqypt, that included severing of diplomatic ties, border closing, an embargo and the expelling of Qatari diplomats and residents expelled from GCC countries. Qatar was accused of sponsoring terrorism and meddling in the affairs of other GCC countries, specifically through its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Although Qatar is indeed a major supporter of radical Islam, the root cause of the conflict is Qatar’s amicable relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Shia nemesis, Iran, with whom Qatar shares a natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. Because Qatar’s major export is gas not oil, it is less under the political domination of Saudi Arabia, often pursuing an independent foreign policy, which is not appreciated in Riyadh.

The Saudis’ hostile rhetoric in Kabul was meant to discourage independent Saudi donors from supporting the Taliban and, by de-legitimization of the Taliban, undercut Qatar’s effectiveness as a mediator between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

One factor contributing to the Saudi break with the Taliban is the increasing support the Taliban have accepted from Iran. In addition, the ambassador to Afghanistan of Saudi ally, the UAE, was wounded and five of its diplomats were killed in the January 2017 Kandahar bombing, which was allegedly planned at the Afghan Taliban-linked Mawlawi Ahmad Madrassa in Chaman, Pakistan.

Over the last decade, there has also been a shift in Saudi funding to Pakistan away from Deobandi groups like the Taliban to the more extreme Ahl-i-Hadith sect, the Pakistani equivalent of Wahhabism. Local sources in Pakistan have reported that Saudi Arabia is providing funding for Jihadi training camps in order to launch attacks on Iran from Balochistan.

All of the above accentuates the importance for U.S. policy makers to understand and exploit elements of the Sunni-Shia struggle, the divisions among Sunni extremist groups and the geopolitical vulnerabilities of the nations who sponsor terrorism.

The ideology that sustains radical Islamic terrorism is really an amalgamation of ideologies, whose inherent incompatibilities can be exploited to create conditions whereby the ideologues attack each other or, at a minimum, are kept continuously off balance.

That is what a winning strategy looks like, not troop levels and nation building.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution “. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

State Dept. Hosts Muslim Brotherhood Coalition

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Aug. 14, 2017:

Islamist groups still have an open door to the State Department under Secretary Tillerson. A coalition of Muslim Brotherhood groups is boasting that it was granted a visit to the department to provide their perspective on the Temple Mount crisis.

The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) is an umbrella of Islamist extremist groups that was formed in 2014 so they can operate as a single body. The U.S. Muslim Brotherhood had been hoping to achieve such unification since at least 1991 when the Brotherhood expressed this desire in a secret memo uncovered by federal investigators.

Most of the groups in the USCMO are listed by the Brotherhood as being fronts for its “Islamic Movement” in America. The memo described “their work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.”

The USCMO says it met with State Department officials to influence them to pressure Israel. As documented by the Clarion Project, USCMO and other Islamists in America are lying about the recent Temple Mount crisis.

The coalition said it discussed “Israel’s denial of religious freedom in Jerusalem.” USCMO was pleased with the reception it got from the State Department, saying it was “encouraged by the constructive dialogue.”

Secretary of State Tillerson opposes designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and has been siding with Qatar, contradicting President Trump in the process. Qatar is spending hand over fist to hire lobbyists, particularly former Trump campaign officials.

The USCMO organizations represented at the meeting included the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Circle of North AmericaAmerican Muslims for Palestine, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and the Muslim Ummah of North America.

The Justice Department says CAIR is an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and designated it as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, another Brotherhood entity convicted for financing Hamas. ICNA’s own texts show its subversive radical agenda.

The representative at the State Department meeting for the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Muzammil Siddiqi, said in 1996 that Muslim involvement in U.S. should be geared towards establishing theocratic sharia (Islamic) law everywhere. Siddiqi used to be the president of the Islamic Society of North America, another group that was designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial and listed as a Brotherhood entity.

As for AMP, some of its officials previously served with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s pro-Hamas Palestine Committee. Congressional testimony in 2016 pointed out the “significant overlap between AMP and people who worked for or on behalf of organizations that were designated, dissolved or held civilly liable by federal authorities for supporting Hamas.”

Perhaps the strongest evidence linking USCMO to the Brotherhood is the fact that it enlisted a known member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood for its political efforts in Illinois named Sabri Samirah. The Jordanian Brotherhood is very radical and linked to Hamas. Samirah used to be the chairman of a now-defunct Hamas front in the U.S., the Islamic Association for Palestine.

The U.S. government was concerned enough about him to ban him from coming back to the U.S. from Jordan in 2003, even though he lived in America as a non-citizen since 1987. The U.S. government revoked his work visa in 1999 and denied his appeal in 2001. He then lied on his application for residency.  He was permitted to return in 2014.

Other radical organizations in the USCMO coalition include the Muslim Alliance in North AmericaMuslim American Society, the Muslim Legal Fund of America, the Mosque Foundation, the American Muslim Alliance, Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, the Islamic Society of Boston and the North American Imams Federation.

Its board is full of Islamists from these organizations. One is Siraj Wahhaj, the radical imam of the Masjid Taqwa mosque in New York. Another is Mazen Mokhtar, who was jailed on charges related to tax fraud (but whose indictment laid out his connections to terrorism). Mokhtar has declared support for Hamas and suicide bombings and ran a website that helped fundraise for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

USCMO is an ally of the Islamist government of Turkey. Another member is the Turkish American Cultural Society. In September, it hosted Turkish President Erdogan and the USCMO president was there to show his “respect and love” to Erdogan. Erdogan is now essentially a dictator and state sponsor of terrorism, particularly of Hamas and the Brotherhood.

USCMO is openly supportive of Erdogan. In 2015, the coalition took a stand against Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. One USCMO member, the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, promoted a rally on that same exact day to thank Erdogan for supporting the Brotherhood.

The Center for Security Policy has published a comprehensive study of the USCMO’s links to Islamic extremism and terrorism, including the Brotherhood and Hamas.

It is not known who USCMO met with at the State Department or what vetting process took place (if any).

This story is the latest in a series about concerning developments within the Trump Administration.

Major danger signs for Israel are emerging, particularly from the State Department and National Security Adviser McMaster.

It is also concerning that the Department of Homeland Security praised CAIR in a letter in May, with the author claiming it was written at the behest of then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly, who is now Trump’s chief of staff.

Hopefully, the attribution to Kelly was just a consequence of standard procedure, but that still wouldn’t excuse Kelly from failing to change DHS policy towards CAIR during his six months there. However, CAIR’s condemnation of Kelly is an encouraging sign.

The Trump Administration is still young and many positions are still not filled. Almost one-third of senior State Department spots are still empty. And as the strike on a Syrian airbase showed and multiple firings have shown, the administration is very capable of rapid changes. These problems don’t have to be permanent. 

The Trump Administration needs an across-the-board education in these matters and oversight by those who understand Islamism so problematic policies, processes and personnel can be identified. Reviewing this meeting with the USCMO would be a good place to start.

Qatar Is Playing a Dangerous Game of Political Chicken

Saudi Arabia and its allies are right to pressure Qatar to end its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The National Interest, by Nawaf Obaid, August 6, 2017:

Last month a Saudi-led group of nations that includes Egypt, UAE and Bahrain modified the thirteen demands it had made on Qatar over a month ago and instead insisted on six principles. These principles are an attempt to convince the Qataris to combat extremism and terror, to prevent the expression of incitement to violence, to stop interfering in the internal affairs of other states, and to refrain from supporting illegal entities, among other things. And while moving from making demands to urging an acceptance of principles is being spoken of as a reconciliatory gesture on the part of the anti-Qatar bloc, the central contentious issue remains: Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudi coalition knows what the experiences of numerous Muslim governments have long proven: the Muslim Brotherhood is an oppositionist movement that does not represent a sustainable form of governance, offers little in the way of social or economic programs, and some of its members have been linked to political violence and jihadist terror.

The current crisis has a geopolitical and historico-religious context. Qatar is a small island nation of 2.5 million people (of which fewer than 10 percent are nationals) that has long felt begrudgingly subordinate to larger Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Its ruling family, Al Thanis, also trace their roots to the Salafist cleric, Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, who allied with the Saudi ruling family in the eighteenth century to establish the first Saudi state (the current Kingdom is the third manifestation of the Saudi state).

Fueled by a desire to exercise outsized influence and a sense of its own importance within the original lineage of Islam, Qatar has long harbored Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supported its attempts to seize power in various Arab nations. The former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is the father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is very close with the Muslim Brotherhood’s current spiritual leader, Egyptian-born cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has lived in Qatar since 1961. In addition, Qatar has funded the Al Jazeera network, which has long provided a global platform for Sheikh Qaradawi and others to promote the movement’s rigid political theocratic manifesto.

The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in 1928 and spread via affiliate organizations into Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, among others. Yet, in almost every case, it has proven incapable of working successfully and/or peacefully within established sovereign political systems. This has been largely due to three factors: its emphasis on religious ideology over developmental economics has alienated Arab populaces who have a growing preference for secular and effective governance; its inability to keep its numerous affiliates in step has led to the perception that it is too riddled with infighting to coherently govern; and it has been unable to quell suspicions regarding its connection to extremist violence.

The Muslim Brotherhood has never gained power in Egypt, save for a short period after the so-called Arab Spring when it proved even more inept than the Mubarak regime at solving the economic and social problems of the country, and the army, with large popular support, removed it from power. With certain Muslim Brotherhood elements having carried out terrorist attacks against its security officers, Egypt’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs has called the Muslim Brotherhood “the progenitor of the Islamic State and similar terrorist groups.”

Also see:

Al Jazeera: The Terrorist Propaganda Network

by John Rossomando
IPT News
August 4, 2017

Al Jazeera’s support for terrorism goes far beyond on-air cheerleading. Many of its employees have actively supported al-Qaida, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Concerns over the network’s consistent pro-terrorist positions prompted several Gulf States to demand that Qatar shut it down in June.

Sheikh Said Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, director of Qatar’s government information office, called such demands “a condescending view [that] demonstrates contempt for the intelligence and judgment of the people of the Middle East, who overwhelmingly choose to get their news from Al Jazeera rather than from their state-run broadcasters,” Al-Thani wrote in Newsweek.

But a week earlier, United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash detailed Al Jazeera’s connections to terrorists and terror incitement in a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Al Jazeera violates a 2005 U.N. Security Council resolution that called on member states to counter “incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism,” Gargash charged.

The network has given a platform to terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Mohammed Deif, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah and others, Gargash wrote.

“These have not simply been topical interviews of the kind that other channels might run; Jazeera has presented opportunities for terrorist groups to threaten, recruit and incite without challenge or restraint,” Gargash wrote.

Al Jazeera Incites Terrorism

Al Jazeera took credit for the wave of Arab Spring revolutions in early 2011. Network host Mehdi Hasan noted in a December 2011 column that Al Jazeera gave a regional voice to the irate Tunisian protesters who ousted their dictator that they would not have otherwise had.

Faisal Al-Qassem, host of Al Jazeera’s show “The Opposite Direction,” boasted that television, not the Internet or Facebook, was responsible for the revolutions. Al Jazeera’s influence during the Arab Spring and the subsequent revolutions is a factorin the effort by Qatar’s Gulf neighbors to clip its wings.

Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi used his widely viewed Al Jazeera a program to incite the masses against their dictators.

“We salute the [Tunisian] people, which has taught the Arab and Islamic peoples … the following lesson: Do not despair, and do not fear the tyrants, and more feeble the than a spider-web. They quickly collapse in the face of the power of steadfast and resolute peoples,” Qaradawi said in a Jan. 16, 2011 Al Jazeera broadcast. “The tyrants never listen and never heed advice, until they are toppled.”

He likewise called on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down on his program later that month.

“There is no staying longer, Mubarak, I advise you (to learn) the lesson of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,” Qaradawi said referencing Tunisia’s toppled dictator.

A month later, Qaradawi issued a fatwa calling for the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Libya still has not recovered from the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011.

Qaradawi urged the overthrow of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after demonstrations began in Syria that March, sparking the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Even before the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera acted as a platform for violent terrorists.

Qaradawi’s endorsement of suicide bombings aired on Al Jazeera. The network also glorified a female Palestinian suicide bomber whose 2003 attack killed 19 people at an Arab-owned restaurant in Haifa as a “martyr.”

It also broadcast a 2006 speech by al-Qaida leader Abdel Majid al-Zindani at a pro-Hamas conference in Yemen, even though the United States and United Nationsalready had designated him as a terrorist. Proceeds from the conference benefited Hamas. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and the widow of slain Hamas leader Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi also attended.

“What is our duty towards this righteous jihad-fighting people, the vanguard of this nation? What is our duty? What is our obligation? ” al-Zindani asked. “The Hamas government is the Palestinian people’s government today. It is the jihad-fighting, steadfast, resolute government of Palestine.

“I don’t have it in my pocket right now, but I am making a pledge, and as you know, I keep my promises. So I’m donating 200,000 riyals. What about you? What will you donate? Go ahead.”

Defector Alleges Qatari Intel Runs Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera is not just another news organization like CNN, Fox News or the BBC, Qatari intelligence whistle-blower Ali al-Dahnim told Egypt’s Al-Bawaba newspaper in April. Qatar’s state security bureau both finances and operates Al Jazeera, he claimed. -“By and large, its [Al Jazeera] news content comes under the sway of security officials, rendering it as a mouthpiece for Qatar’s security and intelligence apparatus,” Al-Dahnim said on Egyptian television. “Not to mention its free publicity to hardened terrorists such as Osama bin Laden who used to use Al Jazeera as an outlet to disseminate his terror messages to the world.”

Al Jazeera English likewise pushes the Qatari government’s favored narratives, such as exaggerating the global importance of its emir.

Its short-lived affiliate, Al Jazeera America (AJAM), aired pro-Palestinian propaganda. During the 2014 Gaza crisis, AJAM host Wajahat Ali pushed Hamas’ talking pointsabout the territory’s population density without a single reference to how the terrorist group used mosques and civilian buildings to launch rockets.

“I think it is simply providing one side of a story. It doesn’t rise to Soviet propaganda, but it certainly is propaganda for one side,” Temple University journalism professor Christopher Harper told the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 2014.

Muslim Brotherhood Shapes Al Jazeera Narrative

Al Jazeera has been “hijacked” by the Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisian intellectual Khaled Shawkat alleged in 2006. Shawkat claimed to have spoken with numerous Al Jazeera journalists who told him that Qatar’s rulers handed the network over to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Most of them agreed that ‘loyalty’ [to a group] had come to supercede ‘qualifications,’ and that journalists with no Muslim Brotherhood background had to choose one of two options: [either] adapt to the new work conditions and swear loyalty to the representative of the supreme guide [of the Muslim Brotherhood’ at Al Jazeera, or leave,” Shawkat wrote, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Around the same time, a top UAE official complained to American diplomats that Qatar had acquiesced to Al Jazeera staff who were “linked to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and jihadists,” a State Department cable noted.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan “said although the Qatari royal family finances Al Jazeera, the people ‘controlling’ it were the same ones financing Osama bin Laden, Hamas, and Iraqi jihadists,” the cable said.

Numerous Al Jazeera employees resigned in 2013 in protest over the channel’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood orientation. Former Al Jazeera journalist Fatima Nabil chargedthat she and her colleagues “had the feeling that the channel is partisan in favor of political Islam, and in most cases selectivity is exercised in broadcasting the text messages [of viewers] on the channel, and even more so in the selection of guests and interviewees.”

The Qatari government controls the network’s coverage, former Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Mohamed Fawzi, arrested by Egyptian authorities in 2013 on terrorism charges, told the Washington Times this year. Al Jazeera actively worked with Brotherhood members in Egypt, Fahmy claimed.

Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour allegedly supported a secret Muslim Brotherhood group in the UAE that aimed to stir up unrest and chaos, Egypt’s Youm 7reported. Qatar provided fugitive members of the Muslim Brotherhood with passports and money. Abdulrhaman Khalifa bin Sabih, the former leader of the secret Muslim Brotherhood organization in the UAE, told Youm7 that an Al Jazeera employee named Mohammed al-Mukhtar al-Shankiti trained him to use social media to spread demonstrations and unrest in the Emirates.

Al Jazeera reportedly enabled the secret Muslim Brotherhood group to link with foreign media and communicate with them because they lacked the means to do so on their own.

Al-Arabiya recently noted that Mansour emphasized the commonalities between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida during a 2015 interview with then Jabhat al-Nusra (Now called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) leader Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, as evidence of his Brotherhood sympathies.

Al-Arabiya claimed that Al Jazeera’s organizing the interview with al-Joulani served the purpose of improving his image so he can take over after Assad falls, and that it proved a Qatari connection with the Nusra leader.

Emails seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan also show the importance al-Qaida gave to Al Jazeera. One email noted that while other networks were hostile to the terrorist group, it could not afford to turn Al Jazeera into an enemy.

“Although sometimes it makes mistakes against us, their mistakes are limited. By clashing with it, it will be biased and damage the image of the Muslim Mujahidin,” bin Laden wrote under the alias “Zamarai.”

Alleged al-Qaida Members on Al Jazeera’s Staff

Al Jazeera Islamabad bureau chief and Syrian native Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan – identified in a leaked National Security Agency PowerPoint as a member of both al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood – helped Al Jazeera reporter Ahmed Mansour secure the interview with Joulani. Zaidan denies belonging to al-Qaida. He met with bin Laden several times after 9/11.

Zaidan, however, periodically writes for a website connected with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Numerous emails retrieved from bin Laden’s compound showed that al-Qaida viewed Zaidan as an asset. Al-Qaida leaders discussed what they wanted to ask Zaidan, including a 2010 email in which an al-Qaida leader said he hoped to use Zaidan to talk Al Jazeera into running a documentary on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Zaidan isn’t the first Al Jazeera journalist accused by the U.S. government of belonging to al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sami Muheidine Mohamed al-Haj worked in Al Jazeera’s Doha newsroom in 2000. He also served as a money courier for al-Qaida under the cover of his employment with Al Jazeera and a beverage company.

Pakistani authorities captured al-Haj in December 2001 because his name appeared on a watch list, and turned him over to U.S. forces in January 2002. U.S. authorities transferred al-Haj to Guantanamo Bay for questioning, including for information about Al Jazeera’s contacts with bin Laden.

A leaked Guantanamo Bay file describes al-Haj as a member of both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida.

He belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura council and was involved in plans to distribute weapons to terrorists in Chechnya. A photo showed Al-Haj in Al Jazeera’s Kandahar, Afghanistan office with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.

Another email captured in the raid on Bin Laden’s compound describes an Al Jazeera cameraman referred to as “Siraj” as a member of the al-Qaida linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who was imprisoned in Iran. The LIFG maintained a network inside Iran in the 2000s.

Networks have their biases. But none comes close to Al Jazeera’s persistent role as the biggest promoter of terrorist propaganda next to social media.

Iran is the First Threat

Security Studies Group (SSG) – July 26, 2017:

Executive Summary

The United States faces many dangers, but Iran should be first on the list for action. We need a comprehensive strategy to stop their ongoing efforts to become a nuclear power, oppose their play for regional hegemony and address their support for terrorism. It is time to accept there is no accommodation with the current authoritarian theocratic government and return to a policy of supporting the Iranian people in seeking a new form of government.

The Iranian regime exerts influence using the following threat vectors:

  • Nuclear Weapons & Missile Programs
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps & Quds Force
  • Terror financing and ideological indoctrination
  • Weapons and Narco-trafficking\

The main geographic areas where their influence is a concern:

  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • Qatar
  • Yemen

Issues where US and Iranian goals are in direct conflict:

  • Iran Nuclear Deal
  • Iraq/Syria End Game
  • Qatar Blockade
  • Yemen proxy war
  • Afghanistan

These issues are all interconnected, and US decisions and actions on each will cause Iranian reactions that could be aimed at affecting any of the others. US policy should be aimed at containing Iranian expansion, rolling back Iranian influence, stopping improper economic partnerships and most importantly ensuring it does not achieve nuclear weapons capabilities. The ideal end state is a new form of government in Iran that ends these policies.

The first step should be a refusal to recertify the Iran Nuclear Deal for non-compliance packaged with the toughest sanctions possible. The other immediate need is to limit Iranian influence on the post-ISIS plans for Iraq and Syria. These will create tremendous challenges, but failure to act could be catastrophically worse.

Iranian Threat Vectors

Nuclear Weapons & Missile Programs

The premier threat posed by Iran is their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development program. There is a wide array of opinion on how serious Iran is about obtaining a nuclear device and the progress of the program. There is less argument about the ballistic missile program, as the Iranians seem to go out of their way to show it off.

Security Studies Group (SSG) believes the regime is set on acquiring nuclear weapons and cannot be trusted to refrain from using them if they are successful. As evidence, the ballistic missiles they are so intent on developing are characterized by relatively small payloads and limited accuracy. Only with nuclear warheads would such missiles be worth the investment Iran is making in them. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) did much less than promised to slow this down, and in some ways acted as an accelerant by providing economic relief and a renewed capacity for the smuggling of foreign technology.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) & Quds Force

These paramilitary forces are tools of the Iranian theocracy, and their primary mission is to protect the Islamic revolution in Iran. Though this mission is characterized as defensive, they have frequently carried it out offensively through expansionist efforts.  These include the development of Shi’a militias loyal to Iran throughout the region, and the defense of dependent proxy states such as Syria and Yemen. The IRGC has extensive business operations to finance and provide cover for their illicit activities and also runs a large criminal network. The IRGC is involved in almost all aggressive activities Iran conducts.

Terror financing and ideological indoctrination

The Iranian regime funds many of the worst terror groups in the world. Some of these, like Hezbollah and Hamas, also have social outreach and assistance programs. The Iranians use these as a way to conduct Islamist indoctrination. The infusions of cash and return of the regime to the international banking system from the Iran Deal have facilitated and increased their funding activities. Also important to recruitment and ideological development is Iran’s commitment to defending Shi’a Islamic holy sites, and Shi’ite Islam in general, against alleged threats. Many of these come from Sunni forces like ISIS, or Sunni states like Saudi Arabia. They also claim the United States is a threat to these as well.

Weapons and Narco-trafficking

The IRGC produces much of the conventional weaponry manufactured in Iran and uses this as a source of cash generation as well as a method to gain allies. The weapons find their way to terror groups and others who help them destabilize adversaries. It is a major player in international opium smuggling and uses this illicit cash to fund its other operations. They also provide transshipment of opium from Afghanistan to Lebanese Hezbollah, which uses it to create heroin for the international drug market. This gives Iranian terror networks direct access to drug cartels operating in the Americas.

Geographic areas of influence

The Core

Iraq

Iran has always had strong ties with the Shi’ite population in Iraq. Their status as members of that sect and their direct proximity to Iraq allowed them to host Shi’ite refugees during Saddam Hussein’s reign. Many of those who sheltered in Iran are now leading figures in Iraq. The precipitous US withdrawal during the Obama administration’s first term both allowed Iraq’s Shi’ite leadership to act on its worst impulses toward minority groups, and also provided Iran unrestricted opportunities to dominate Iraq.

That has only increased during the counter-ISIS operations. The Iranians have nurtured Shi’a militias who have been a major part of this clearing mission. They have had advisors and even direct command and control from the IRGC’s Quds Force. They have conducted sectarian reprisals against the Sunni populace. The militias have shown little regard for civilian casualties. They also openly declare support for Iran’s theocracy instead of Iraq’s secular government, ensuring that Iran has a capacity to control Iraq even when Iraq’s government would prefer to act independently.

The support Iran has given to Shi’a militias across much of Iraq will greatly complicate de-militarization as the counter-ISIS campaign winds down.

Syria

Russian and Iranian support has kept their proxy, Bashar al-Assad, in power. Iran has backed Hezbollah’s combat operations in support of the Assad regime, providing IRGC troops and advisers and raising auxiliary units of volunteers from Afghanistan and other areas.

Iran has long sought to dominate a road to the Mediterranean Sea. The demise of ISIS will create a vacuum they will try to use to fulfill this goal.

Geographic areas of influence

The Edge

Afghanistan

Iran has been supplying and assisting the Taliban for years and continues to do so in order to keep the United States bogged down there. They also have a substantial commitment to Shi’a populations in Afghanistan. The IRGC’s criminal aspect is a key smuggler of opium from Afghanistan into the Middle East.

Iran’s assistance to America’s enemies in Afghanistan not only advances their own interests, but those of other authoritarian regimes. America’s ground lines of communication, through which our forces in Afghanistan are supplied and kept fed, are under the physical control of Russia and Pakistan. The larger the American deployment in Afghanistan, the more of our forces must be fed and supplied, and thus the greater the pressure Russia and Pakistan can put on America by closing our supply lines. Iran’s efforts in Afghanistan thus make America subject to increased pressure from authoritarian regimes.

Qatar

President Trump gave a jump start to the Saudi and United Arab Emirate (UAE) move against Qatar when he forged a counterterrorism alliance at the summit in Riyadh. Iran’s relationship with Qatar is a key motivator of the Gulf Arab blockade and Iran has been supporting Qatar in attempts to end it.

This conflict puts two US allies —both Qatar and Turkey, which has fallen into authoritarianism under President Erdogan —on the side of Iran, and against the Gulf Arab states that President Trump has pledged to support. US treaty obligations to both Qatar and Turkey will be troublesome if the conflict escalates between the Saudi-led Gulf Arabs and the Turkey, Iran, Qatar coalition. There is a danger of significant stress on American treaty networks, as well as the danger that Iran will succeed in peeling both Qatar and Turkey away from the United States.

Yemen

Iranian support for Houthi rebels against Saudi and UAE backed forces in Yemen has been a potential flashpoint for a while. Currently, it is mostly proxies fighting. However, the Gulf States have put troops on the ground; and, the Houthi have access to Iranian missiles and rockets which they have fired against Gulf States and US Navy ships. The Qatar crisis adds another potential collision with Iranian-backed forces or potentially IRGC forces. This is part of a larger battle for regional dominance between the Iranians and the Gulf Arabs.

Direct conflicts between US and Iranian goal

The danger zones for US interactions with Iran are numerous with great potential for trouble.  Since 1979, Iran’s government has been marked by a preference for escalation so US policy should be built around an expectation they will act forcefully in response to our moves.

Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA)

US policy should be to disengage from this deal in the most expeditious manner possible. The justification must be well publicized. There will be a withering public information counterattack by the Iran lobby, the institutional left in the US and abroad, and Obama loyalists. Exposing the misinformation, lies, and malfeasance that allowed this deal to ever be made will be a strong antidote to this.

There are a number of tactics the President can use to end our participation:

  • Submit JCPOA to the Senate as a treaty
  • Refuse to recertify based on serial non-compliance
  • Move via executive order to withdraw based ion Iranian violations
  • Renegotiate with Iran

The last option is the least likely to succeed as the Iranians have no reason to negotiate in good faith because the existing deal front-loaded the benefits to Iran, leaving them with nothing to lose by being difficult.  Submitting the deal to the Senate as a treaty has a certain elegance, and would actually remedy a major attack by President Obama on Constitutional Separation of Powers. The other two options are versions of the same valid complaint that the Iranians have not meaningfully complied with the deal.

Any move to take away this deal, which Iran rightly considers a victory, will certainly be met with a flurry of public protestations but also activation of proxies and other Iranian assets to cause problems for the US. They can present these anywhere the US has interests and create considerable havoc. Contingency plans to protect US assets must be prepared and plans to preempt the Iranian plans or retaliate must be ready for immediate action.

Iraq/Syria End Game

The end of kinetic operations against ISIS is a milestone that comes with significant challenges to meet or a year or two down the road Sunni Insurgency Mark III will be in effect (I. al Qaeda in Iraq, II. ISIS). These include reintegrating the Sunni regions ISIS destroyed into the states of Iraq and Syria.  SSG believes success is unlikely and recommends a protectorate for these areas until rebuilding and some self-determination for the people can occur.

Iran has been in the forefront of the counter-ISIS operations both directly with the Iraqi government and military and as supplier, adviser and often in command of Shi’a militias. They have done much the same in Syria, and the IRGC has lost more than 1000 personnel in these conflicts. Iran will not want to give up what was gained in blood by disbanding local militias trained to be more loyal to Tehran than to Baghdad or Damascus.

The goal of a Shi’ite Crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea is not merely a fantasy to the Mullahs of Iran and their IRGC and Quds Force. They have seeded the path to the Mediterranean with these Shi’a militias, and demilitarizing them will be difficult if even possible at all. Any successful reconstruction and reintegration of Iraq’s Sunni areas will have to deal with the massive sectarian slaughter and looting conducted by these militias. The Sunni populace will hold the Baghdad government and its Iranian allies responsible for this. They may also hold the United States to blame, given the precipitous withdrawal of US forces that exposed them to the Iranians and their militias; and, US participation in the clearing operations.

Changing the balance of influence with the Iraqi government from Iran’s favor to the United States will be a major challenge. The belief in Baghdad that US policy is turning against Iran after 8 years of promoting it will be helpful in this regard. But Iran has been building its alliances for 40 years. They do not have the reputation for abandoning allies for political purposes, which the United States did by removing combat forces at the beginning of the Obama administration.

Iran’s ability to disrupt any effort to create stability or peace is strong in both Syria and Iraq and this may be their area of choice if pressured by US rejection of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Conclusion

The US needs a new approach to Iran which recognizes them as an active antagonist not a potential partner for peace.

The Iran Deal recertification process offers an opportunity to cite Iranian provocations in the 90-day window before the next certification. Iran’s response to an American declaration that they have not been compliant has the potential to be violent. American military forces must start preparing immediately for the consequences Iran is already threatening.

Iran must be stopped at all costs from establishing the land bridge to the Levant. The counter-ISIS end game, and the end of the civil war in Syria, must be built around a clear strategy of denying Iran either direct control, or control through proxy states, of any straight line from its borders to and across Syria.

Iranian militias within Syria and Iraq will need to be isolated in order to provide Iraq’s government any capacity for independence from Iran. This will require the presence of counterpoised forces, either Coalition or peacekeepers from governments that are not friendly to Iran.

The United States should also begin working to facilitate replacement of the Iranian regime in the longer term. This should not be conceived as a military operation, but as a whole of government approach built first and foremost around diplomacy and intelligence work. The Security Studies Group has a strategy to offer under separate cover for professionals working in classified environments.

SSG focuses on defending the value of American power against the true threats we face. Both the legislative and executive branches need rapid access to concise and factual data to inform strategic re-orientation in counterterrorism and national security policy. That’s what Security Studies Group is all about.  @SecStudiesGrp 

Secretary of State Shills for Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro and Martin Mawyer, July 25, 2017:

The Trump Administration still hasn’t designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization as it was expected to do. Designation falls under the purview of Secretary of State Tillerson, who has chosen the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar and Turkey over their Arab rivals.

Tillerson recently signaled his opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-June. He only has negative things to say about the idea.

His main point is that the Brotherhood’s political parties have representatives in governments like those in Bahrain and Turkey. That is irrelevant. If it was such a problem, Bahrain itself wouldn’t have banned the Brotherhood and the U.S. wouldn’t be dealing with the Lebanese government that has Hezbollah in it, which is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Tillerson also repeated the “non-violent” and “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood propaganda. He claimed that the Brotherhood’s political parties in governments “have become so by renouncing violence and terrorism.” That was false when the Obama Administration said it, and it is false now.

The disappointment in Tillerson’s position is made exponentially greater by the fact that now is an optimum time to designate the group.

The Arab world is putting unprecedented pressure on Qatar over its support of the Brotherhood and other jihadists in the Islamist swarm. Muslim foes of the Brotherhood are left wondering where the U.S.stands because Trump and Tillerson aren’t on the same page.

Counter-terrorism expert Patrick Poole goes so far as to assert that Tillerson is “sabotaging” Trump’s foreign policy and urges his departure from the administration.

While President Trump expressed his support for the Arab measures against Qatar and unequivocally described Qatar as a major terrorism-financier, Tillerson did the opposite. He described Qatar as “very reasonable” in its reaction to the Arabs’ pressure.

His spokesperson read a scripted statement accusing the Arab states of having ulterior motives, saying the U.S. is “mystified” by their complaints. The State Department even cast doubt on the credibility of the Arabs’ accusations, claiming that they haven’t provided supporting details. Qatar’s lavish sponsorship of terrorism and extremism is uncontestable.

As Poole documents, far from offering support for those Arab states opposing Qatar, Tillerson publicly made moves towards Qatar’s Turkish allies and increased criticism of Qatar’s Saudi adversaries. The Trump Administration also agreed to sell up to 36 fighter jets to Qatar right after the Arabs began their campaign.

Tillerson even signed a counter-terrorism agreement with Qatar, spitting in the faces of the Arab countries fed up with Qatar’s repeated breaking of its promises to change its behavior. Immediately after signing the deal, Qatar reiterated its firm commitment to Hamas (and therefore, the broader Muslim Brotherhoodorganization of which it is an official branch).

Tillerson’s Ties to Qatar

People are inevitably influenced by those they surround themselves with, especially if that interaction is lucrative. Perhaps Tillerson’s favoring of Qatar has something to do with the close relationship he had with the Qatari government as a businessman with ExxonMobil, which has a decades-long association with the rulers.

ExxonMobil was a founding member of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council in 1996, an entity created by the Qatari regime. Tillerson was a senior official at the time. Another listed founding member is Al-Jazeera, the jihadist-friendly propaganda network run by Qatar and the Brotherhood. One of the Arab states’ top demands is the closure of the network headquartered in Doha.

After becoming chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson became a member of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council’s advisory board. He apparently held this position up until when he became Secretary of State, as his name is still listed with that title on the website.

The Vice President of ExxonMobil Production’s name is currently listed as a member of the Council’s board of directors. Al-Jazeera officials also appear on the advisory board and board of directors.

The organization’s website says that the U.S.-Qatar Business Council “played a major role in the formation of Qatar Foundation International (U.S.-based).” The Qatar Foundation headquartered in Doha is a major promoter of Islamist extremism, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, including Islamists in America.

When the Arab campaign against Qatar began, the Qataris immediately began utilizing their contacts to try to win the State Department over. It deployed its lobbyists in America and they had leverage: The West’s three biggest energy companies, including ExxonMobil, were trying to strike a deal with the Qatari government for expanding liquified natural gas production.

But Qatar isn’t the only country working aggressively to influence U.S. foreign policy in a direction favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey’s government is also leading the Islamist charge.

Tillerson’s Ties to Turkey

ExxonMobil is a member of the U.S.-Turkish Business Council. The chairman is Ekin Alptekin, the very same Turkish businessman at the center of the controversy with President Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn.

Alptekin’s company had a $600,000 contract with Flynn to promote the Erdogan government’s interests. Flynn’s firm registered as a lobbyist but did not register as a foreign agent. The Justice Department’s National Security Division began an investigation last November. Flynn registered as a foreign agent of Turkey after he was fired and replaced by General H.R. McMaster.

We do not currently know of direct dealings between Tillerson and Alptekin, but ExxonMobil’s involvement in the U.S.-Turkish Business Council highlights how his prior relationship with the Turkish government may influence his behavior.

At a time when Erdogan has few defenders, the Islamist dictator finds a supporter in Tillerson.

On July 9, Tillerson traveled to Istanbul to receive an award from the World Petroleum Congress. There, he heaped praise upon those who defended Erdogan against a coup attempt last year, going so far as to describe the Islamist government as a democracy. He said:

“Nearly a year ago, the Turkish people – brave men and women – stood up against coup plotters and defended their democracy. I take this moment to recognize their courage and honor the victims of the events of July 15, 2016. It was on that day that the Turkish people exercised their rights under the Turkish constitution, defended their place in a prosperous Turkey, and we remember those who were injured or died in that event.”

Tillerson doesn’t defend Erdogan in all circumstances, as he did condemn the Turkish security personnel who attacked protesters in Washington D.C. in May. But that’s not exactly a bold stand; it’s something that any public official would condemn.

When it comes to the tough issues, Tillerson has sided with Qatar and Turkey, even when it contradicts the commander-in-chief who picked him for secretary of state.

On designating the Muslim Brotherhood, Tillerson sides with Qatar and Turkey

When the Arab states piled unprecedented pressure on Qatar for its sponsorship of terrorism and extremism including the Brotherhood and Hamas, Tillerson sided with Qatar and Turkey.

When it comes to last year’s coup in Turkey, Tillerson sided unequivocally with Erdogan’s Islamist dictatorship. He didn’t even necessarily have to talk about it during his visit to Istanbul. He chose to.

When it comes to the Kurds, our best allies in fighting ISIS, Tillerson’s State Department sided with Turkey in criticizing the Iraqi Kurds’ referendum on independent statehood. It also implied opposition to Kurdish independence, reacting to the referendum with a statement in support of a “united” and “federal” Iraq.

Political analysts always say that Trump was elected because people wanted change from an outsider. Tillerson is not bringing change. When it comes to Islamism, it’s the same-old same-old. Possibly worse.

Also see:

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