A recent statement by Syria’s Information Minister that Qatar is violating all of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on fighting terrorism is being suppressed in the West. The United States and its allies are keeping silent because Doha is providing funding to carry out their plans. Nor is there any word about an Arab role in settling the Syrian crisis, because it would be unrealistic for those who are arming one side in the conflict and sending terrorists into Syria to have a hand in resolving it. And for good reason, if we recall the recent major terrorist attack in Boston in which there is clear evidence of Saudi brainwashing with Wahhabi ideas. That is especially true if we look back in history a little ways — to when leading members of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family were concealing Saudi terrorists who helped with preparations for the November 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States that killed thousands of civilians.
And if we go back a few years further, we find that Qatar was on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was only taken off the list because it offered to host a US naval base — the largest one in the region — which was used as a command post during the 2003 operation by forces of the United States and its allies to occupy Iraq. Huge amounts of money from natural gas sales enabled the Qataris get the “leader” of the global antiterrorist coalition to turn a blind eye on all of Doha’s transgressions in the sacred cause of assisting the “brothers” in sharing the Salafi faith everywhere — from Africa to Kashmir. If we can trust documents on the WikiLeaks site, in 2008 the former US ambassador to Doha, Joseph LeBaron, cabled the State Department that Qatar was still financing international terrorism. Leaks of his cables published by the Qatari newspaper Peninsula in 2010 generated an exchange of remarks between LeBaron and its chief editor. But the US ambassador left, and Washington simply hushed the matter up.
In the 1990s, Doha was among the most active “financiers” behind the separatist rebellion in Chechnya. It sent money to local militants and trained Arab terrorists who participated in attacks on the Russian Army in the North Caucasus. When the rebellion was put down and peace began returning to Chechnya and the Arab “mujahedin” were almost completely destroyed, Qatar’s Emir provided a refuge for Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, “president” of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria and his many supporters, providing them with benefits and even government jobs.
Although Qatar has formally cut all government-level level financial ties with terrorist and Islamist groups at the state level, another mechanism for doing that has been put in motion — the so-called Islamic charities of Jamiat Qatar al-Khair, Sheikh Eid al-Khairiah, RAF, and the Qatari Red Crescent Society, which is also involved in allegedly charitable “international activities.” All are controlled by the Emir’s family or prominent representatives of it, as well as by the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs. And then there are their non-public activities. Money is seemingly collected by private individuals. Displays with signs indicating where donations are going can be seen in many of Doha’s large shopping malls: starving children in Somalia, aid for disaster victims in the poor Muslim countries of Asia and Africa, etc. The geographic scope is broad — stretching from the Western Sahara to the Philippines. As a rule, however, radical Islamist groups are always active in the countries concerned. And it is never possible to tell how much of the donations made to these funds by private individuals come out of the country’s natural gas revenues. Officially, members of the Al Thani clan and the Emir himself cannot contribute. They take money from the state treasury — as much as they need, considering that Qatar is an absolute monarchy in which the activities of the Emir are not subject to audit. And from there, the funds can be transferred to bank accounts in other countries, especially countries where learning the names of the account owners is difficult. Until recently, active use was made of Swiss banks and offshore financial institutions. It is easy to move funds out of them to specific “aid” recipients in, let us say, Istanbul, and after they are turned into cash they can be delivered by special courier to their final recipient. That could be a Wahhabi extremist groups in Dagestan or elsewhere in the North Caucasus; Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist cells fighting Syria’s legitimate government; or sleeper cells of extremists in France, the United States and other countries.
Sometimes, the money is simply handed over directly — for example, to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal when he visits Doha, where he is received as a head of state. Palestinian sources say that the Emir personally gives him cash that then makes its way to its intended recipients through Arab countries neighboring on the Gaza Strip. Then homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are sent flying towards Israel. However, it is obvious that large amounts of money go for other purposes, including undermining the Palestinian National Authority and for the personal “needs” of Hamas leaders.
The Qataris make no bones about the fact that since the Arab Revolutions began they have been directly funding militants and weapons for those fighting the ruling regimes in Arab countries. They did it in Libya, and they are doing it now in Syria. And after the recent Arab League summit in Doha, where Qatar’s political weight overcame even Egypt and Algeria to push through a decision allowing weapons to be delivered to Syrian opposition fighters, Doha no longer needs to hide its activities along those lines. But if we apply the international legal norms to Qatar’s activities, we find that they actually meet the legal definition of sponsoring international terrorism as spelled out in several UN Security Council resolutions and other international community documents.
Doha’s provision of money and weapons to terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra qualifies as financing international terrorism.
The articles urging action against Russian and Chinese embassies in all Arab and Muslim countries because of Moscow’s and Beijing’s positions on Syria that appear periodically in the Qatari press are also worth mentioning. The Qataris took direct action in November 2011 when Doha airport police used an attempt to inspect the Russian ambassador’s diplomatic pouch as an excuse to beat him, injuring him physically. Such actions involving direct violence meet the definition of “incitement to terrorism,” which is also spelled out in UN documents. Even then, however, the Western and Arab press chose not to comment on Qatar’s attitude towards international legal norms.
Therefore, Syria’s information minister acted properly in demanding that the UN add Qatar to the list of state sponsors of international terrorism. It would be useful to find out where the aid from the Emirate’s Islamic funds goes and who receives the weapons Doha sends to Syria. Otherwise, the West will again endorse its commitment to a double standards policy. Therefore, the recurring suppression of news in the United States that Doha has allegedly “sponsored” another prominent foreign leader through kickbacks on investment contracts surprises no one. As the saying goes, “He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.” This is no way to fight terrorism and the sponsors of terrorism!
Alexander Orlov is a political analyst and an expert Orientalist. Exclusively for New Eastern Outlook.