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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Ben Cohen

400 Killed in Terror in 5 Days and Obama Says ‘World More Stable’

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Islamic terrorists killed 70 plus people in Kenya, 78 Christians in Pakistan, 142 people in Somalia and about 100 in Iraq the past four days, but President Barack Obama told the United Nations Tuesday, ”The world is a more stable place than it was five years ago.”

The President quickly added that, sure, there are “problems” in Kenya, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries, but so what?

“Al Qaeda does not have the capacity to carry out another 9/11,” he explained. That may or may not be true, but it reflects the egocentric attitude of the American government, which takes responsibility for safeguarding the world even though it lost its authority years ago.

Al Qaeda still is a “problem” for other governments, President Obama admitted. but there are bigger problems, such as Israel trying to exist.

President Obama outlined where the United States stands on world conflicts. Syria must not be allowed to have chemical weapons, he said, without batting an eyelash over the fiasco of his hastily climbing down the ladder of a confused foreign policy.

But more important, he said there are two great issues that can be solved to make peace for the world: Iranian’s nuclear aim and the “occupation.”

He repeated the term “occupation” several times to make it clear that the United States backs the Palestinian Authority while saying it really is just bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the so-called negotiating table to thrash it out by themselves.

When he insisted that Israel’s security is dependent on the creation of a Palestinian Authority country within Israel’s current borders, President Obama did not mention that two Palestinian Authority terrorists murdered two IDF soldiers the past four days. Maybe the numbers are not high enough to be considered terror.

He obviously and sincerely believes that if Israel simply would duplicate its idiocy in 2005, when it expelled all Jewish civilians and withdrew the IDF from Gaza, the Palestinian Authority will have no reason to attack Israelis.

President Shimon Peres is almost the only person in the world still trying to figure out why Hamas attacks with missiles and rockets after the expulsion eight years ago. President Peres may soon have company because Obama assumes that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas would never do such a thing if Israel pulls out Judea and Samaria.

Just in case Obama thought he could fool all of the people all the time, he added that the United States “is not taking sides” in Egypt, after having ushered out Mubarak, ushering in the Muslim Brotherhood and then ushering it out a year later.

It was not one of Obama’s greatest speeches. He tried to bury the Islamic terrorist attacks the past few days as footnotes so they would not get in the way of his view that the world is such a more stable place today.

For the record,  more than 130 people have been murdered in Iraq the past four days, 96 in two suicide bombings on Saturday in a Shi’ite neighborhood in Baghdad. Dozens more were killed in terrorist attacks at funerals, including 14 on Monday.

Thousands of people have  been killed in terrorist attacks the past few months, 12 years after the Bush administration declared “victory” to make Iraq safe for democracy. Speaking of democracy, the suicide bombings on Saturday came as Kurds in an autonomous northern region voted in local legislative elections.

Al Qaeda is increasing its attacks in Iraq, where Sunni rebels are terrorizing the Shi’ite government – one group of terrorists against another. Terrorists in Iraq on Tuesday launched an attack against police and military sites with car bombs, rockets and machine guns in western Iraq, killing at least nine policemen.

In Pakistan on Sunday, Islamic terrorists killed at least 78 Christians and wounded more than 100 others in a suicide attack on a church.

Meanwhile, terrorists in Nigeria dressed up as soldiers and gunned down at least 142 people on a highway and burned homes on Sunday.

The terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi is not over. After four days, Kenyan authorities continue to say they have secured the mall and there are not more hostages, but fighting continues.

Local officials told the Associated Press that the morgue is preparing for the arrival of a large number of bodies, meaning that the official death toll of 68 is likely to reach three figures.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Israel Shouldn’t Be The Main Course

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Israel has always suffered from an inability to form an all-inclusive strategy. In the words of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger: “Israel doesn’t have a foreign policy; it has only internal politics.”

This failure to form a strategy is not due to some Jewish intelligence deficiency; it is because we have been evading the fundamental truth of our national existence. We justify the existence of the state of Israel with pragmatic – not destiny-based – reasons. The Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem, has become our holy temple. The Temple Mount, on the other hand, is a source of primal fear for Israel’s leadership, which will do everything possible to rid itself of it – and the sooner the better.

So despite the fact that we are the most (actually the only) advanced state in the region, we are the only state in the region that has no regional interests. Our only interest is to survive. That is why we are capable of nothing more than reacting. We will never initiate. If the Syrians attack, we will attack them even harder. Until then, though, we will simply wait.

Strategy means formulating general policy to foster a goal that is beyond mere existence. Tactic is a policy of actions and reactions.

In the Middle East, you either sit down for the dinner – or you are the main course. Western democratic countries can maintain static relations between them; in other words, “I do not desire what is yours, and vice versa.” Israel would love to conduct its foreign policy in such a reality. But the Muslim culture in our region rules that out. Here the rule is: if you do not trample me, I will trample you.

Strategically, Israel must strive to be a regional power in the Middle East. Due to the fact that we see ourselves as strangers and foreigners in our own land, we show no interest in strategic objectives – nothing beyond basic survival.

The Middle East is crumbling, taking on the shape of the original, pre-World War I Sykes-Picot Agreement. It will fall into the greedy hands of Iran or Turkey. Everybody wants to be the new Salah al-Din of the greater Arab nation, which is shedding the national masks forced upon it by the West. Iran bids for hegemony by threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation. Turkey does the same by repeatedly humiliating Israel.

Meanwhile, the vacuum that has been created is sucking in the world’s superpowers. First Russia, and now, reluctantly, the U.S., which is taking advantage of the chemical weapons massacre in Syria in an attempt to rehabilitate its image.

Having a strategy means that if there is a massacre in Syria, Israel must intervene and prevent it from happening again. What? Are we crazy? We should intervene on behalf of the Syrian nation and be the target of missiles in Tel Aviv?

Tragically, we are heading straight for a repeat of the U.S. attack on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1991. If the U.S. attacks Syria (for its own interests) it will be Israel that will pay a heavy price. In 1991, Israel passively sat out the Iraq war, relegating its security to the U.S. As a reward for our “good behavior” we got Iraq’s Scud missiles exploding in Ramat Gan and diplomatic pressure that led to the Madrid Conference, Oslo, the Expulsion in Gaza, and the serious deterioration in Israel’s existential legitimacy that we witness today. If there is an American attack on Syria, we will pay the same price for our passivity.

If we take the initiative, our first step should be the neutralization of Syria’s missile capabilities. This would diminish potential harm to Israel and in the future, whoever would want to exert influence in the Middle East would understand that they must include Israel in the equation – not to exact a price, but to pay Israel its strategic due. In other words, in the Middle East, either you sit down for dinner or you are the main course.

I know that currently, this idea does not have many supporters in Israel. Israelis feel like guests in their own land. They cannot yet absorb this line of thinking. For now, this is food for thought. Until I am elected to lead Israel, we can all relax in our sealed rooms, contemplating life on the Saudi dinner plate.

Moshe Feiglin

CIA Document: Israel Built Chemical Weapons Stockpile

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A newly discovered CIA document indicates that Israel likely built up its own chemical weapons arsenal.

Intelligence circles in Washington believe that Israel amassed a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons decades ago to complement its nuclear arsenal, Foreign Policy reported Monday on its website.

Information about Israel’s chemical weapons production appears in a secret 1983 CIA intelligence estimate obtained by Foreign Policy.

American spy satellites in 1982 uncovered “a probable CW (chemical weapon) nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert,” the CIA document reported. “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry.

“While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents, several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and nonpersistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.”

It is not known whether Israel still maintains the chemical weapons, according to Foreign Policy.

In 1992, the Israeli government signed but never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans such weapons.

The report, which was declassified in 2009, mostly deals with allegations of Soviet use of chemical and biological weapons in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. Sections on the Middle East were largely deleted by government censors.

The document has come to light as the Congress debates whether to approve a limited military strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own civilians.

JTA

Obama Tosses Syrian Hot Potato into Republicans’ Laps

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Since first being elected, President Obama has made much of his determination to “go it alone” when he can’t get his way from Congress. This has resulted in an endless chain of unprecedented, unconstitutional and illegal actions to advance his self-serving political agenda. At every turn, Obama has sought to make Congress irrelevant. Unfortunately the gutless GOP political leadership aided and abetted him, at the very least by doing nothing, and sometimes even colluding in his efforts. Marco Rubio’s disgraceful illegal alien “reform” plan comes immediately to mind, but so do the countless “showdowns” with the President, in which Republicans have repeatedly blinked.

But either through sheer stupidity, or likely, some much more malevolent, calculated strategy, Obama has painted himself into an impossible corner by pronouncing a very specific “red line” that, if crossed by our enemies, promised military action. So now when forced by his own words to deliver the goods, what does he do? Something he has never done before: he decides to “consult” Congress.

What cheek!

Do you see what has happened here? By giving the issue to Congress, he evades sole responsibility and makes himself look “principled” for pretending to follow the Constitution by acknowledging Congress’s responsibility to “declare war” — never mind that the contemplated actions don’t rise to the level of a war declaration. Because our national media conspires with Obama on a daily basis, no matter what Congress decides, Republicans will take the blame, and you can be sure it will be used as a 2014 campaign issue against them. Finally, this whole controversy has taken the country’s mind off Obama’s many politically damaging scandals.

Obama has demonstrated repeatedly just how reckless his foreign policy is. Early on, he announced his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014, while simultaneously dramatically tightening our military rules of engagement. Telegraphing our intentions to the Taliban while tying our war fighters’ hands had a predictable result. The Taliban dramatically increased its terrorism, use of IED’s, and “insider attacks” by Afghan soldiers, making our continued presence that much more unpalatable and demoralizing, while creating mounting pressure to abandon what has become a completely futile effort under this administration .

U.S. casualties in Afghanistan under President Obama have skyrocketed: 1,639 killed during Obama’s four-and-a-half years versus 630 in the eight years under George W. Bush. Coalition IED deaths have topped 1,068 during the Obama years compared with 310 during Bush’s term. Between 2007 and March of 2013, there were a total of 92 U.S. personnel killed in insider attacks and another 132 wounded, according to a Pentagon report. Approximately 25 percent of these attacks are estimated to be from Taliban infiltrators. Most of the insider attacks have occurred since Obama took office.

For a sitting president to telegraph his specific war plans to the enemy, as Obama did, is insane; unless of course, his goal was to hobble our efforts. In that case, he has been wildly successful. His policies have effectively neutered anything we accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan and have guaranteed our ultimate failure – all the while racking up American war casualties. As a former U.S. Army Colonel and Afghanistan war veteran recently tweeted:

It’s like we gave control of American foreign policy to a pony-tailed gender studies seminar TA.

Obama should have already faced electoral defeat, impeachment, or even an investigation into possible treason for his travesties in Afghanistan and Libya, and would have if the media did its job. But the media has long since abandoned any shred of objectivity. Indeed, were Obama exposing himself daily on the White House lawn, the media would no doubt laud his courage in “challenging” us to broaden our minds and become more accepting of “alternative” behaviors.

With typically galling arrogance, Obama pronounced that Syria must not be allowed to get away with gassing 1,400 people, and “Mad Uncle Joe” Biden chimed in that there was “no doubt” the Syrians did it. But virtually all evidence points to the rebels. This was a deliberate false-flag operation conducted by the Islamic terrorists at the heart of the rebellion. By specifying explicitly what he would not tolerate, i.e. the use of chemical weapons, Obama virtually guaranteed that someone would find a way to use that to their advantage.

James Simpson

Obama’s Foreign Fiasco

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.

It’s a privilege to be an American who works on foreign policy, as I have done since the late 1970s, participating in a small way in the grand project of finding my country’s place in the world. But now, under Barack Obama, decisions made in Washington have dramatically shrunk in importance. It’s unsettling and dismaying. And no longer a privilege.

Whether during the structured Cold War or the chaotic two decades that followed, America’s economic size, technological edge, military prowess, and basic decency meant that even in its inactivity, the U.S. government counted as much or more in world developments than any other state. Sniffles in Washington translated into influenza elsewhere.

Weak and largely indifferent presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton mattered despite themselves, for example in the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 or the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1990s. Strong and active presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had greater impact yet, speeding up the Soviet collapse or invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

But now, with Barack Obama, the United States has slid into shocking irrelevance in the Middle East, the world’s most turbulent region. Inconstancy, incompetence, and inaction have rendered the Obama administration impotent. In the foreign policy arena, Obama acts as though he would rather be the prime minister of Belgium, a small country that usually copies the decisions of its larger neighbors when casting votes at the United Nations or preening morally about distant troubles. Belgians naturally “lead from behind,” to use the famed phrase emanating from Obama’s White House.

Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo was a very long time ago.

Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo was a very long time ago.

Qatar (with a national population of 225,000) has an arguably greater impact on current events than the 1,400-times-larger United States (population: 314 million). Note how Obama these days takes a back seat to the emirs of Doha: They take the lead supplying arms to the Libyan rebels, he follows. They actively help the rebels in Syria, he dithers. They provide billions to the new leadership in Egypt, he stumbles over himself. They unreservedly back Hamas in Gaza, he pursues delusions of an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Toward this end, the U.S. secretary of state made six trips in four months to Israel and the Palestinian territories in pursuit of a diplomatic initiative that almost no one believes will end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Doha, now more influential than Washington in the Middle East.

Doha, now more influential than Washington in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of defense called Egyptian leader Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi 17 times in conversations lasting 60-90 minutes, yet failed in his pleas that Sisi desist from using force against the Muslim Brotherhood. More striking yet, Sisi apparently refused to take a phone call from Obama. The $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt suddenly looks paltry in comparison to the $12 billion from three Persian Gulf countries, with promises to make up for any Western cuts in aid. Both sides in Egypt’s deep political divide accuse Obama of favoring the other and execrate his name. As dozens of Coptic churches burned, he played six rounds of golf. Ironically, Egypt is where, four long years ago, Obama delivered a major speech repudiating George W. Bush policies with seeming triumph.

Obama’s ambitions lie elsewhere – in augmenting the role of government within the United States, as epitomized by Obamacare. Accordingly, he treats foreign policy as an afterthought, an unwelcome burden, and something to dispatch before returning to juicier matters. He oversees withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan with little concern for what follows. His unique foreign policy accomplishment, trumpeted ad nauseam, was the execution of Osama bin Laden.

So far, the price to American interests for Obama’s ineptitude has not been high. But that could change quickly. Most worrisome, Iran could soon achieve nuclear breakout and start to throw its newfound weight around, if not to deploy its brand-new weapons. The new regime in Egypt could revert to its earlier anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism; already, important elements in Egypt are calling for rejection of U.S. aid and termination of the peace treaty with Israel.

As an American who sees his country as a force for good, these developments are painful and scary. The world needs an active, thoughtful, and assertive United States. The historian Walter A. McDougall rightly states that “The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years” and its civilization “perturbs the trajectories of all other civilizations just by existing.” Well not so much perturbation these days; may the dismal present be brief in duration.

Daniel Pipes

Qatar’s Risky Overreach

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally pubished at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

With seemingly limitless wealth and a penchant for often supporting both sides of the argument, the State of Qatar has become a highly significant player in Middle East power-politics. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, however, have put the brakes on Qatar’s ambitions. In this second part of his analysis of its attempt to influence regional politics, Paul Alster considers how much its flamboyant foreign policy, centered on furthering the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, might be coming back to haunt Qatar.

July 3 was not a good day for Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood’s man was ousted from power after just a year as Egypt’s president, having lost the essential confidence of the country’s powerful military leaders. July 3 was also a black day for the State of Qatar, the country which had nailed its colors and its money firmly to the Muslim Brotherhood mast, and which suddenly found itself the target of outrage on the Egyptian street and beyond.

Morsi came to power in a democratic election, but misinterpreted the meaning of democracy. He and his Muslim Brotherhood backers – primarily Qatar – appeared to believe that having won the election, they could run the country according to their decree, not according to democratic principles as the majority had expected. A series of draconian laws, a spiralling economic crisis, and a feeling on the Egyptian street that the Muslim Brotherhood was paid handsomely by foreign forces, spurred street protests of historic proportions, prompting the military to intervene.

With Morsi gone, Qatar suddenly became “persona non grata” in Egypt.

Qatar sought to extend its influence and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired view of how countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya, and others should be. Qatar was also playing a power-game against Saudi Arabia, another hugely wealthy regional power whose vision of an even more strictly Islamist way of life for Muslims drove a wedge between the two parties.

Another seismic change hit the region just nine days before Morsi’s fall. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani – in power since overthrowing his own father back in 1995 – voluntarily abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.

Tamim, educated in England and a graduate of the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, became the region’s youngest leader, with the eyes of the world watching to see if he would maintain his father’s aggressive policy of extending Qatar’s regional influence. Few could have imagined that he would very quickly find himself at the center of a major political crisis as Egypt – a country in which Qatar had so much credibility and money invested – imploded before his eyes.

Within hours of Morsi’s departure, the streets of Cairo were awash with anti-Qatari banners accompanied by the obligatory anti-US and anti-Israel slogans. Al Jazeera – a staunch promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood view in Egypt – was vilified, its reporters attacked on the streets, its offices ransacked. Al Jazeera also had been hit seven months earlier after supporting Mohammed Morsi’s crackdown on young Egyptian demonstrators opposed to the rapid Islamisation of Egypt under the new government.

In the first part of my analysis of Qatar’s policy in the region, I focused on Al Jazeera’s huge influence on opinion in the Arab world and the West, portraying the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood version of events in a way that the uninformed viewer might believe to be objective reporting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Al Jazeera’s carefully crafted smokescreen as the moderate voice of the Arab world has taken a significant battering with the events in Egypt. That should serve as a wake-up call to those trumpeting the imminent launch of Al Jazeera America scheduled for August 20.

“There is a lingering perception in the U.S. –right or wrong – that the network [Al Jazeera] is somehow associated with terrorism, which could slow its progress in gaining carriage,” Variety Magazine‘s Brian Steinberg suggested last month.

Dubai-based writer Sultan Al Qassemi observed in Al-Monitor: “Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country’s most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what prominent Middle East scholar Alain Gresh [editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the Middle East] calls a ‘mouthpiece for the Brotherhood.'” The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its ‘neutrality.'”

The Economist, reporting in January, reflected the growing dissatisfaction amongst many in the Arab world. “Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of Qatari-backed rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have made many Arab viewers question its veracity. So has its tendency to ignore human-rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to accord the uprising by the Shia majority in Qatar’s neighbor, Bahrain, the same heroic acclaim it bestows on Sunni revolutionaries.”

In June, a vocal and agitated group of nearly 500 protesters took to the streets in Benghazi, Libya – the city where U.S Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three colleagues were killed last fall – demanding that Qatar stop meddling in Libyan internal affairs.

“Much of the opposition was directed at Qatar which protesters claimed was supporting Libyan Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Middle East Online reported at the time. “Analysts believe that Qatar is trying to take advantage from a scenario repeated in both Tunisia and Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an active participant in revolutions, seized power,” the story said.

To the casual observer, it might appear strange that the country that was perhaps as instrumental as any in helping bring about the downfall of the hated Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya back in 2011 should be the target of such vitriol. Qatar, a close U. S. ally, was the main conduit through which weapons transfers were made to Libyan rebels who eventually overpowered forces loyal to the long-time dictator.

As Libyans attempt to create a new order in their fractured country, many now believe that the Qatari regime’s Salafist sympathies contribute to a growing influence of radical Islamist groups in Libya with similar ideological beliefs to the Qatari royals. Concerns had surfaced as early as January 2012.

“But with [Muammar] Gaddafi dead and his regime a distant memory, many Libyans are now complaining that Qatari aid has come at a price,” reported Time magazine’s Steven Sotloff. “They say Qatar provided a narrow clique of Islamists with arms and money, giving them great leverage over the political process.”

Sotloff quoted former National Transitional Council (NTC) Deputy Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni as saying, “I think what they [Qatar] have done is basically support the Muslim Brotherhood. They have brought armaments and they have given them to people that we don’t know.”

And then there’s the question of Qatar’s meddling in Syria’s civil war.

“I think there are two [Qatari] sources of mostly ‘soft’ power – their money and Al Jazeera,” Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “They are using their soft power to advance their regional goals. In Libya it was not necessarily a negative. In Syria they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood [allied to the Free Syrian Army].”

“Now, what you have to assess,” Yadlin continued, “is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than Bashar [al-Assad], and whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than the Jihadists and the Al Nusra Front [supported by Saudi Arabia].”

Yadlin’s pragmatic view reflects the dilemma of many considering intervention on behalf of the rebel forces in Syria. Is it better to try to arm the moderate elements of the FSA and have them replace the Assad regime? Would risking weapons supplied by the West and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia falling into the wrong hands, possibly usher in an even more dangerous Jihadist regime that could destabilise the region even further?

Qatar played on these fears by presenting the Muslim Brotherhood as a relatively moderate force, but many now fear it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and no less dangerous than the Al Nusra Front terror group, which was added to the UN sanctions blacklist May 31.

Writing for the Russian website Oriental Review.org on May 23, Alexander Orlov reminded readers that Qatar was on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism during the 1990s, and sheltered Saudi nationals who were later revealed to have contributed to the 9/11 atrocities. He suggests that the U.S. turned a blind eye to Qatar’s previous record in return for using the massive Al Udeid facility as a forward command post in 2003 for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Orlov reminds us that Qatar was a major financier of the Islamist rebellion in Chechnya in the 1990s, and that after the Islamists had been routed by the Russian army, the [now former] Qatari emir gave sanctuary to one of the most wanted leaders of the Islamist rebellion, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a figure who has inspired Chechen Islamists ever since. Yandarbiyev was subsequently assassinated by a car bomb in the Qatari capital Doha in 2004.

Qatar long ago signed up to the Muslim Brotherhood cause. It believed that this alliance would promote Qatar to being the foremost player in Sunni Muslim affairs at the expense of its main rival, Saudi Arabia. Recent events suggest that gamble may have blown up in its face.

Sheikh Tamim’s rise to power appears to have created an opportunity to mend bridges with Saudi Arabia after his father Sheikh Hamad’s antagonistic relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia was a key Brotherhood supporter from the 1950s until the 9/11 attacks. Then, in a bid to distance itself from the damning fact that 15 of the 19 bombers were Saudis, Riyadh insisted that Muslim Brotherhood radicalization of the bombers was a significant factor. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad quickly stepped into the breach and became the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest supporter, offering Doha as a base for spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

It is significant, then, that the new Qatari leader’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia. He arrived there last Friday, reported the Gulf Times. “Talks during the meeting dealt with existing fraternal relations between the two countries and ways to develop them in various fields,” the official Qatar News Agency said.

Tamim’s outreach to Saudi Arabia suggests that the two countries may be on the verge of rapprochement. Where that development leaves the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar’s huge investment in underwriting the Egyptian economy, the funding of rebel forces in Syria, and Qatar’s previous foreign policy in the region, remains to be seen.

The choices Qatar’s newly appointed young leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, makes over the next few weeks and months may have a significant impact on regional politics and on Qatar’s future role on that stage for years to come.

“I suspect the Qataris will draw back somewhat,” former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told Reuters. “Their infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood has probably been dampened. They’re likely to come around to a position closer to the Saudis.”

Paul Alster

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/qatars-risky-overreach/2013/08/20/

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