The Former Anchor Who Says Al-Jazeera Aids Terrorists

Mohamed Fahmy in the defendants’ cage during his trial in Egypt. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg, by Eli Lake, June 23, 2017:

Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera.

In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt’s military dictatorship.

Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy.

“The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence,” he told me in an interview Thursday. “There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists.”

Fahmy’s testimony is particularly important now. Al-Jazeera is at the center of a crisis ripping apart the Arab Gulf states. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a political and diplomatic blockade on Qatar. As part of that blockade, al-Jazeera has been kicked out of those countries.

The treatment of al-Jazeera as an arm of the Qatari state as opposed to a news organization does not sit well with many in the West. This week a New York Times editorial accused Qatar’s foes of “muzzling” a news outlet “that could lead citizens to question their rulers” in the Arab world.

In some ways it’s understandable for English-speaking audiences to take this view. Al-Jazeera’s English-language broadcasts certainly veer politically to the left. At times the channel has sucked up to police states. The channel embarrassed itself with such fluff as a recent sycophantic feature on female traffic cops in North Korea. But al-Jazeera English has also broken some important stories. It worked with Human Rights Watch to uncover documents mapping out the links between Libyan intelligence under Muammar Qaddafi and the British and U.S. governments.

Al-Jazeera’s Arabic broadcasts however have not met these same standards in recent years. To start, the network still airs a weekly talk show from Muslim Brotherhood theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He has used his platform to argue that Islamic law justifies terrorist attacks against Israelis and U.S. soldiers. U.S. military leaders, such as retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded forces in the initial campaign to stabilize Iraq, have said publicly that al-Jazeera reporters appeared to have advance knowledge of terrorist attacks. Fahmy told me that in his research he has learned that instructions were given to journalists not to refer to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization.

He said Qatar’s neighbors were justified in banning al-Jazeera. “Al-Jazeera has breached the true meaning of press freedom that I advocate and respect by sponsoring these voices of terror like Yusuf al Qaradawi,” he said. “If al-Jazeera continues to do that, they are directly responsible for many of these lone wolves, many of these youth that are brain washed.”

Fahmy didn’t always have this opinion of his former employer. He began to change his views while serving time. It started in the “scorpion block” of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison. During his stay, he came to know some of Egypt’s most notorious Islamists.

“When I started meeting and interviewing members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers, they specifically told me they had been filming protests and selling it to al-Jazeera and dealing fluidly with the network and production companies in Egypt associated with the network,” he said.

One example of al-Jazeera’s coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood revolves around Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in the summer of 2013, following the military coup that unseated Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. As part of Fahmy’s case against al-Jazeera, he took testimony from a former security guard for the network and the head of the board of trustees for Egyptian state television. Both testified that members of the Muslim Brotherhood seized the broadcast truck al-Jazeera used to air the sit-ins that summer. In other words, al-Jazeera allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast its own protests.

That incident happened in the weeks before Fahmy was hired to be the network’s Cairo bureau chief. He says he was unaware of these ties to the Muslim Brotherhood until he began doing his own research and reporting from an Egyptian prison.

When Fahmy learned of these arrangements, he became angry. It undermined his case before the Egyptian courts that he was unaffiliated with any political party or terrorist groups inside Egypt. “To me this is a big deal, this is not acceptable,” he said. “It put me in danger because it’s up to me to convince the judge that I was just doing journalism.”

Ultimately Fahmy was released from prison in 2015. But this was not because al-Jazeera’s lawyers made a good case for him. Rather it was the work of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who eventually got him safely out of the country to Canada.

Now Fahmy is turning his attention to al-Jazeera. He is pressing a court in British Columbia to hear his case in January against the network, from whom he is seeking $100 million in damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and negligence.

Fahmy’s case is one more piece of evidence that the al-Jazeera seen by English-speaking audiences is not the al-Jazeera seen throughout the Muslim world. It’s one more piece of evidence that Qatar’s foreign policy is a double game: It hosts a military base the U.S. uses to fight terror, while funding a media platform for extremists.

Why Trump should endorse allies’ demands upon terror-cozy Qatar

XtockImages | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, June 23, 2017:

The United States should wholeheartedly support Arab states’ attempts to rein in the renegade state of Qatar, as Gulf leaders attempt to cut down on Doha’s out of control terror promoting and jihadi financing policies.

On Thursday, Middle Eastern countries issued a list of 13 demands that need to be met in order to restore relations with Qatar. They have given Qatar 10 days to comply with the ultimatums. The list of demands aligns so well with American nationalist interests that it wouldn’t come as a shock if American officials had a role in drafting the document.

Among the most “America-first” of the 13 mandates include:

1) Dramatically scale down ties with the Iranian regime and expel members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) from the country.

Iran has long been accused of sowing discord in the Middle East and fanning the flames of war. The regime in Tehran, which considers the United States “The Great Satan,” directly supports terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and has aided attempts to overthrow governments in Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, and elsewhere. The IRGC, which is tasked with exporting Iran’s revolutionary ideology through military force, is heavily involved in the Syrian Civil War, supporting the Assad regime and Russia in committing sectarian war crimes against innocents.

2) Shut down the Turkish military base that is currently under construction in Qatar.

Though a NATO ally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey continues to trend towards Islamic authoritarianism. In May, bodyguards for the Turkish strongman viciously attacked American citizens protesting outside of the Turkish ambassador’s home in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Turkey supports and aids the global jihadist Muslim Brotherhood network, and U.S.-designated terrorist organizations like Hamas.

3) Eliminate ties for terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.

Qatar continues to harbor Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has endorsed suicide operations against American soldiers. Additionally, there is overwhelming evidence that high-ranking members of the Qatari regime have aided and abetted Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. Even as the U.S. has recently arrested Hezbollah agents charged with plotting terrorist attacks on American soil, the Emir in Doha considers Hezbollah a “legitimate resistance” movement. Though Qatar claims to be fighting ISIS, U.S. counterterror officials continue to claim that they’re a chief funding resource for the caliphatist[RH1] group.

6) Shut down Al Jazeera and its affiliates.

Al Jazeera is a state-run media agency in Doha that is masquerading as a free media enterprise. The outfit is currently facing a new lawsuit claiming it collaborated directly with the Muslim Brotherhood during Islamist revolts that resulted in the overthrow of the Egyptian government. In 2013, 22 staff members resigned to protest the network’s bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. The news network’s Arabic channel has had a hand in radicalizing its viewership towards Islamist beliefs. A 2015, an Al Jazeera Arabic poll showed 81 percent of respondents supported the Islamic State terror group. Its short-lived American outlet acted as an Islamic blasphemy police, banning words like “terrorist,” “militant,” “Islamist,” and “jihad” from its reporting. After the 9/11 attacks, Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha was decorated with silhouettes glorifying Osama bin Laden.

Since the Arab states’ blockade against Qatar began, American officials have been all over the place on whether the United States supports or disputes the measures.

President Trump — who gave a speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia just prior to the embargo, urging Middle Eastern countries to do more to quash terrorist financing — appears to be supportive of the Arab initiative, labeling Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.” The president is also considering hosting a “Camp David-style” summit for Arab leaders to explore how to further crack down on Qatar’s terror finance and other terror supporting Middle East entities.

However, the Pentagon under Secretary James Mattis, and the State Department under Rex Tillerson, have acted instead to empower the Qatari monarchy.

The Pentagon recently signed a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Qatar, allowing for the sale of 36 U.S. F-16 fighter jets.

And this week, Tillerson’s State Department commanded Arab allies to rescind demands of Qatar, and immediately end the embargo. The State Department even called into question the overwhelming evidence that Qatar is a financier of international terrorism, and refused to name Qatar as a state-sponsor of terror.

It would be challenging to find a more pro-American document than the list of dictates being offered up by our Middle East allies. The White house has been presented with a historic opportunity to finally quash the rich oil-regime’s support for the world’s worst actors. Squandering that opportunity — when pressure on Qatar is as high as it will ever be — would result in the loss of a much-needed boost to American security interests and global stability.

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

BREAKING: Gulf States Give Qatar List of Demands To Restore Diplomatic Relationships – All Demands Target The Muslim Brotherhood…

 The Last Refuge, by Sundance, June 22, 2017:

The latest development, in the ongoing Arab state GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) initiative to stem the destabilizing behavior of Qatar, is a list of demands presented to Qatar. If you have followed the regional issues for the past few years you’ll quickly identify how each of the demands cuts to the core of the destabilizing issues.

Included in the demands:  ♦Shut down al-Jazeera, ♦stop cooperating with Iran and ♦expel Turkish military provocateurs (Erdogan).  The binding thread that connects each of these demands is the effort to stop Qatar from supporting/assisting the Muslim Brotherhood.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kuwait has given Qatar a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that includes shutting down Al-Jazeera and cutting diplomatic ties to Iran.

That’s according to a list obtained by The Associated Press from one of the countries involved in the dispute. The document says Qatar has 10 days to comply with all demands.

The list says Qatar must immediately close Turkey’s military base in Qatar and end military cooperation with the NATO member. It also demands an unspecified sum of compensation from Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar this month over accusations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism. The U.S. has been urging them to produce a list of demands. Kuwait is helping mediate. (link)

Additionally, a reputable and reliable source for news and information within the region, specifically well-connected to the MB issues, provides the following:

This list of demands could have been personally written by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi because it is exactly what he needed to do when he expelled the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt and restored stability in the aftermath of Mohammed Morsi’s chaos.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Saudi Game of Thrones: King Appoints Son Crown Prince After Power Struggle

Saudi Interior Ministry via AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, June 22, 2017:

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning that his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, would become the new crown prince of the kingdom.

As it happens, Saudi Arabia already had a Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef. Nayef is over 25 years senior to Mohammed bin Salman and was also the deputy prime minister and interior minister of Saudi Arabia. He was stripped of all these positions at once.

He appeared to handle his demotion quite well, having no doubt seen the writing on the wall ever since Salman became deputy crown prince. “I am content,” said Nayef to his replacement, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “I am going to rest now. May God help you.”

To the dismay of the Western world, Nayef was considered one of the most pro-American of the Saudi royal family. He received counterterrorism training from the FBI and Scotland Yard in the eighties, maintained good relations with U.S. officials, and was instrumental as both an operational leader and spokesman in the Saudi war against al-Qaeda after 9/11.

His commitment to fighting the terrorist group did not waver after a 2009 suicide bomb attack against him. The CIA was sufficiently impressed with his work to give him a counterterrorism medal in February, personally awarded by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been nicknamed “Mr. Everything” because he has been put in charge of just about everything in Saudi Arabia. He was the chief architect of the “Saudi Vision 2030” plan intended to make his country less dependent on oil money, a plan regarded as the biggest change to the Saudi economy in the country’s history.

Nayef, on the other hand, has been nicknamed “The Prince of Darkness” because of his role in Saudi intelligence. Saudi dissidents find nothing whimsical about the nickname, as they blame Nayef for using the al-Qaeda crackdown as a pretext for imprisoning the politically inconvenient.

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan put Mr. Everything at the helm of some $2 trillion in overseas investments on the reasonable proposition that breaking the country’s dependence on oil would involve buying a tremendous amount of stock in companies that do not sell oil and are not headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Among his many duties, Salman is the chairman of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco – the first member of the royal family to have such a direct role in managing the all-important corporation.

Mohammed bin Salman was popular when the reform program was launched, and he remains popular today. The UK Daily Mail notes that Saudi Arabia’s enormous youth population sees him as a rock star, a symbol of hope and prosperity for the future.

The Daily Mail floats rumors that Salman and Nayef were engaged in a fairly bitter power struggle behind the scenes, and it might not be over yet, even after the king moved to resolve it in Salman’s favor before his death. The deciding factor might simply have been that the king likes Salman better, and is impressed by his charisma, erudition, and 16-hour-day work ethic.

Another advantage to Salman is that his youth and energy suggest a certain stability for Saudi Arabia for decades to come. The previous king, Abdullah, was the world’s oldest monarch at the time of his death in early 2015 at age 90; King Salman is currently 81. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman puts a younger face on the monarchy and might well end up occupying the throne for five decades.

Middle East Eye cites analysts who say the king wanted to reassure Western governments, regional allies, and business partners there would be “continuity in foreign and economic policies.” There was evidently very little confidence that Nayef would have offered such continuity.

Also, Middle East Eye observes that Nayef had a testy relationship with a crucial Saudi ally, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, while Salman and Zayed have become close friends.

Most intriguingly, a Saudi citizen told MEE that President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia played a role in reshaping the monarchy, as King Salman took the occasion to convince Trump the new crown prince is “the right horse to back” despite Nayef’s favorable reputation in Washington.

The monarchy moved quickly to secure Salman in his new position, announcing that 31 of 34 royals supporting his ascension and arranging a meeting in Mecca for them to formally pledge allegiance within a matter of hours. The senior Islamic council swiftly endorsed the decision, followed by welcomes from the leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim allies. The Saudi stock market added its congratulations by climbing over five and a half percent.

Some other Middle Eastern powers were less enthusiastic about the shift in Saudi leadership. Iranian state media grumbled that Crown Prince Salman’s ascension was a “soft coup” in which the “son becomes the successor of the father,” which would seem to betray a fundamental Iranian misunderstanding of how hereditary monarchy works.

Reuters suggests Iran correctly sees Salman’s ascension as a sign of more aggressive Saudi policy toward Tehran and its projects, such as the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and whatever the Qatari royal family has been up to for the past decade. Nayef’s focus was on al-Qaeda, while Salman has been an outspoken enemy of Iran, supporter of Saudi intervention in Yemen, and critic of Qatar. In fact, he is seen as one of the prime movers behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to isolate Qatar.

The Saudis will probably let Iran’s criticism roll off their backs, but Turkey is more problematic. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fairly close to Nayef but still working on building a relationship with Salman. It is not going terribly well, as Salman has refused every Turkish invitation to visit Ankara since he was named deputy crown prince.

Erdogan has expressed support for Qatar, putting it at odds with one of Salman’s major policy initiatives, and he disagrees with Salman’s dim view of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Middle East Eye cites Turkey-watchers who foresee a potentially serious conflict between Erdogan and Salman over Turkey’s least favorite Middle Eastern faction, the Kurds. Either as a power play, or because he sincerely favors their cause, Salman may support the Kurds in Syria – which would inflame Turkish fears of the Kurds carving out chunks of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to form an independent state. Turkish media is reportedly speculating that Salman will threaten to put Saudi Arabia’s chips on the Kurds unless Erdogan backs away from supporting Qatar.

CNN notes that if Salman does succeed his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of national founder Ibn Saud, who became King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Naming Mohammed bin Salman as his heir allowed King Salman to reshape the line of succession for decades, and perhaps centuries, to come.

It also puts Saudi Arabia more firmly under the guidance of the most liberal leader it has ever had, with respect to everything from women’s rights to representative government. Granted, that’s a fairly low bar to clear in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but it’s good to see a future king trying to clear it at a moment when the United States is realigning Middle East policy back toward Saudi Arabia and its allies

Rogue Rex? State Dept demands allies back off terror-linked Qatar

AP

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, June 21, 2017:

While President Trump appears more than willing to pressure Qatar into dropping its support for terrorist entities, the U.S. State Department has decided to attack American allies in the Middle East, demanding that they immediately cease their embargo against Qatar.

About two weeks ago, several Middle East states decided that they could no longer sit idly by while Qatar continued its cozy relationship with terrorist entities such as Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the terrorist-sponsoring regime in Tehran. They imposed a massive embargo on Qatar and dismissed its diplomats from their nations.

The move came almost immediately following President Trump’s “Drive Them Out” speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which he called upon the Islamic world to do more to hold accountable the nefarious actors inside and outside their nations.

And in a call with Saudi Arabia’s newly installed crown prince Wednesday, the president spoke of the situation in Qatar, prioritizing “cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Through his social media accounts, Trump praised the embargo as a necessary reaction and pointed to Qatar’s terror financing.

But on Tuesday, Rex Tillerson’s State Department decided to condemn the embargo, seemingly directly contradicting the president’s stance.

“Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo has started, we are mystified that the gulf states have not released to the public nor to the Qataris the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a slap to U.S. regional allies.

She continued: “The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.”

Nauert then called into question the motives behind the embargo:

“At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long simmering grievances?”

There is hardly anything “alleged” about Qatar’s support for terror. Qatar has somewhat transparently supported Al Qaeda networks in Syria. World leaders have accused Qatar of funding ISIS. Its chief officials regularly host the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has publicly called for suicide bombings against American soldiers. Qatar maintains a close relationship with the Iranian regime, which the United States considers the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Lastly, Qatar distributes militant Islamist, anti-U.S. propaganda on its state-run hate network, Al Jazeera.

So why is the State Department taking such a soft approach towards Qatar? The answer may be discovered in Rex Tillerson’s history as chief of ExxonMobil.

Secretary Tillerson, a former oil executive, has long been extremely close with the regime in Doha.

Over the past few years, Tillerson has met personally with Qatar’s leader several times. Less than a week after election day, Tillerson arrived in Doha to discuss ExxonMobil and Qatar. He and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met again in September 2016 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They again got together during Tillerson’s February 2016 trip to Doha. They once more met in private in Houston in February 2015. And those are only the meetings between the two that were disclosed to the public.

As ExxonMobil CEO, he sang the praises of Qatar, even as the country supported terror and maintained its vicious human rights record.

“It is evident why Qatar is an example to the world,” Tillerson said at a 2009 energy conference in Qatar, adding, “We must learn from Qatar’s vision and its policies.” A year later, at another Qatar conference, Tillerson praised “Qatar’s visionary leadership” in the energy industry.

Conservative Review reached out to the State Department to try to get to the bottom of the contradiction between the comments coming from President Trump and from Secretary Tillerson.

CR asked whether the State Department considers Qatar to be a state supporter of terrorist organizations. A State Department official pointed to the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which does not include Qatar. CR also asked if State wanted Gulf allies to lift their embargo of Qatar immediately. The official referred CR to the transcript from Tuesday’s briefing, in which State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert attacks U.S. allies for imposing the embargo.

Is Rex Tillerson going rogue and defying the agenda of the president? Or has he instead been delegated authority by the president to conduct diplomatic affairs as he sees fit? Regardless of his motives or authority, Tillerson’s State Department is backing away from what could be a seminal moment for real, positive change in the Middle East.

Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban: The Terror Groups That Have Called Qatar Home

Mohamed Farag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 13, 2017:

The government of Sunni-majority Qatar has long hosted and legitimized political leaders from the terrorist organizations known as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Hamas Palestinian movement, and more recently the Afghan Taliban.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain have severed ties with their fellow predominantly Sunni nation Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the Muslim region with its support for Islamic terrorist organizations and plunging the Arab Gulf nations into a diplomatic crisis.

Qatari officials have repeatedly denied the allegations, dismissing them as “unjustified” and having “no basis in fact.”

“Qatar became a central target of the Saudi-Emirati-Israeli joint lobbying efforts for its perceived role in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood and hosting members of Hamas’ political bureau,” reports Al Jazeera.

In 2013, Qatar allowed the Afghan Taliban to open an official political office in its capital Doha. Although the Qatari government allegedly shut it down, Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be still operating in Doha.

A senior Qatari official recently told Al Jazeera that Doha hosted the Taliban at the “request of the U.S. government,” led by former President Barack Obama at the time.

Under President Donald Trump, who has recently expressed strong support for Saudi Arabia, the United States joined the Sunni kingdom’s allies in condemning Qatar for supporting and assisting Iran and jihadist groups.

Hamas, officially deemed as a terrorist group by the United States, is considered one of Iran’s terror proxies.

Echoing comments made by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) blasted Qatar’s ties to terrorism on the same day.

Qatar “must stop supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Jubeir told reporters.

During a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing titled, “Challenges and Opportunities for the U.S.-Saudi Relationship,” Chairman Royce declared:

Qatar’s relationship with Hamas remains very concerning. Senior leaders of Hamas and the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – which is an Islamist group designated as terrorists by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates – all reside in Qatar today.

And earlier this month – and I think this is what is most concerning for all of us here – more Hamas tunnels were found under two U.N. Relief Works Agency schools in Gaza. Found underneath the schools in Gaza. So Hamas is still using civilians and children to hide its activities. And that, to me, does not sound like a legitimate resistance movement.

Qatar’s foreign minister recently referred to Hamas as “a legitimate resistance movement.”

The Sunni country “has doubled down on its relationship with Hamas,” noted Congressman Royce, later adding, “This practice needs to end now. There is no such thing as a ‘good terrorist group.’”

According to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Hamas is responsible for for the death of more than 400 Israelis and at least 25 American citizens.

“Palestinian terrorism represents a grave threat to Israeli security and the prospects for a two-state solution,” said New York’s Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House panel, in a statement issued on May 26.“Congress must work to stop international support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and foreign supporters of these organizations must understand the risks associated with perpetuating this perverse violence.”

The Obama administration refused to officially deem the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group despite requests from Republican lawmakers.

President Trump is expected to support efforts to label MB a terrorist organization.

Unlike its predecessor, the Trump administration did not hesitate to refer to the Afghan Taliban as a “terrorist” group.

The U.S. has officially labeled the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization.

Qatari foreign minister’s special envoy on counterterrorism told Al Jazeera that Doha allowed the Afghan Taliban to establish an office at the “request of the U.S. government” in 2013 and as part of the country’s “open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace.”

Qatar “was facilitating the talks between the Americans, the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan,” claimed Mutlaq Al Qahtani, the FM’s envoy.

Also see:

Saudi-Qatari Dispute Rising

Front Page Magazine, by Ari Lieberman, June 12, 2017:

The dramatic schism witnessed last week between a significant bloc of Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia, against the tiny peninsular nation of Qatar, has major regional implications. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives all severed political and commercial ties with Qatar. Jordan and Mauritania followed suit shortly thereafter. The draconian measures severely curtail Doha’s ability to conduct air and maritime travel. In addition, nations that severed relations with Doha no longer recognize the Qatari Rial as a valid currency which means that Doha must deplete its foreign currency reserves if it wishes to purchase goods and services.

The punishing Saudi-led initiative, though dramatic, was hardly surprising. Qatar has long adopted policies that were incongruent with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s goals. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states did not look favorably on Qatar’s rapprochement efforts with menacing Shia Iran and neo-Ottoman, meddlesome Turkey. But most irksome for the Sunni states was Qatar’s cynical use of its propaganda media arm, Al Jazeera, to shill for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.

The issue of Hamas was another sore point where interests between the opposing sides diverged. Qatar is Hamas’ main benefactor. In 2014, it pledged $1b toward reconstruction efforts in Gaza. But much of Qatar’s aid money is skimmed off the top by notoriously corrupt Hamas officials, who maintain rather luxurious lifestyles. Some of the aid money is channeled into military projects, like construction of terror tunnels, rather than legitimate civilian purposes.

Hamas is recognized by the United States and EU as a terrorist organization. During his recent trip to the region, President Trump in an address to several Muslim heads of state lumped Hamas with other recognized terror groups like Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaida. The group is a recognized offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, placing it at odds with several moderate Sunni nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, explicitly stated that Qatar must stop supporting terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Riyadh and its allies see both groups as destabilizing entities and have repeatedly criticized Doha for paying lip service to the war on terror while at the same time, providing financial, political and logistical support for terrorist organizations.

The Saudi-led effort represents a concerted attempt to squeeze Qatar into making concessions. Undoubtedly, that includes Qatar adopting policies that are more in line with the goals of GCC, namely to thwart Iranian influence and curtail the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The pressure brought to bear by the Saudi initiative is already producing positive results. Qatar has asked several Hamas leaders-in-exile and operatives currently stationed in the country to leave. Hamas has tried to downplay the implications of the Qatari expulsion orders but it’s hard to overlook the ramifications.

But Doha is nevertheless sending out mixed signals.  On Saturday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, characterized Hamas as “a legitimate resistance movement.” He also said that as an independent country, Qatar had the right to support groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Over the years, Hamas’ allies have whittled down to three, Turkey, Iran and Qatar. Of the three, Qatar provides the terror group with the most financial support. It was hoped that Israel’s recent rapprochement with Turkey would translate into concrete efforts by Ankara to scale back its support for the terror group but this has not materialized. Iran, which remains the world’s premier state-sponsor of terror, continues to funnel money to Hamas despite a brief falling out.

The current economic situation in the Gaza Strip is abysmal. This is largely due to mismanagement, graft and rampant corruption by the Islamist governing authorities. There are chronic electricity shortages with four or five hours of reliable electricity supply on a good day. In addition, youth unemployment hovers at an astonishing 60%. A cut-off of Qatari aid would place enormous pressure on Hamas and lead to further economic decline, which could inexorably lead to widespread discontent among the masses within the Strip.

Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and maintains a zero tolerance policy for even minimal dissent. The few who dare challenge Gaza’s theocratic rulers are beaten, jailed and sometimes executed under the guise of being collaborators with “the occupation.” Nevertheless, with so many unemployed youth, and chronic electricity and water shortages, open challenge or even revolt is a real possibility.

Hamas may seek to stave off that predicament by deflecting attention away from the dire economic situation to its age-old bogeyman, the Israelis or in Hamas vernacular, the “Zionist entity.” It could create a crisis by launching rockets into Israel, thereby drawing an Israeli response which could quickly escalate to full blown war. Gaza’s population would then be spoon-fed Hamas crafted propaganda and Israel would then be blamed for the inevitable destruction and misery that is sure to follow.  Such cynical exploitation of the masses represents a ruthless Hamas tactic calculated solely on the basis maintaining the group’s survival and governing authority. The welfare of the population is of secondary or even tertiary concern.

But the Hamas wag the dog tactic is a double-edged sword. Since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel was forced to battle Hamas on three occasions – 2008/9, 2012 and 2014. On each occasion, Hamas drew the short end of the stick and was decimated militarily. Nevertheless, during the 2014 campaign, Israel came under immense political pressure from the Obama administration to cease hostilities.

Obama held up a shipment of Hellfire missiles slated to be delivered to Israel and his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) briefly ordered the suspension of commercial flights to Ben Gurion airport. Many suspected that the FAA action was implemented under orders from Obama as a pressure tactic against Israel to induce it into accepting a ceasefire. In addition, during the course of the conflict, a disturbing transcript of an exchange between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu surfaced in which the American president browbeat Netanyahu over his reluctance to accept a ceasefire, brokered by hostile Turkey and Qatar, under less than desirable terms. His secretary of state, John Kerry, was picked up on hot mic blasting Israel with sarcastic references to Israel’s “helluva pinpoint operation.”

In sum, Obama’s fiercely hostile attitude toward Israel and his attempts to hamper Israel’s war efforts provided Hamas with some measure of political cover, and prevented an even more severe mauling than already inflicted on the terror group. But there is a new sheriff in town, one not inclined toward appeasing Islamists. Should Hamas begin stirring the pot, expect the administration to give Israel a freer hand to do what is necessary to crush Hamas.

Undoubtedly, Hamas is aware of the fact that it no longer has a sympathetic ear in the White House and many of its former Arab allies, including Egypt, have abandoned it. It is also cognizant of the fact that Israel’s military capabilities are unmatched in the Middle East and any provocation will invite devastating retaliation from which it may not recover.

In sum, if Qatar capitulates, Hamas will suffer and may consequently be forced to wag the dog to preserve its survival but the very war that it provokes may spell its demise. The unfolding drama between Doha and Riyadh has placed Hamas in a bit of a pickle and it’s safe to assume that its leaders are not sleeping well these days.

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.

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