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Posts Tagged ‘Qatar’

Kerry Says Saudi Arabia to Support US Attack on Syria

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Saudi Arabia has agreed to support an American-led attack on Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated on Sunday in Paris, where he met with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elarab and nine Arab foreign ministers.

He said “a number of [Arab] countries” are ready to sign a joint declaration blaming Syrian President Bassar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said that “foreign intervention is already present by several parties,” referring to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. “We call on all other countries to intervene to protect the Syrian people,” he added.

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.”

Syrian Rebels Elect New Leader

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition organization fighting against the government in Syria, elected Ahmad Jarba as president following a run-off vote held in Istanbul on Saturday, Xinhua reported.

A senior SNC official Adib Shishakly told Reuters, “A change was needed,” adding, “the old leadership of the coalition had failed to offer the Syrian people anything substantial and was preoccupied with internal politics. Ahmad Jarba is willing to work with everybody.”

Jarba, a tribal figure from the eastern Hasaka province, has close connection with Saudi Arabia. He beat businessman Mustafa Sabbagh who is supported by Qatar.

The announcement was made by the opposition at a press conference in Gonen Hotel, outside Istanbul.

The 3-day meeting also elected three vice presidents: Mohammed Farouk Taifour, Suheir Attasi and Salim Muslit, as well as a secretary general, Badr Jamous.

The Syrian opposition has long been divided by the conflicting views of the Saudi-backed bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood bloc and members backed by Qatar, according to local observers.

The former leader of the coalition quit months ago over disagreement on potential talks with the Assad government.

The Syrian civil war began in March of 2011, with more than 90,000 dead so far.

Israel Cracks New Hamas Ring Linked with Shalit Deal Terrorist

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Israel security personnel have broken up another Hamas terrorist cell linked with one of more than 1,000 terrorists and security prisoners freed last year to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), IDF and police arrested Bachar Attalah Sa’ad, who lives near Ramallah, on charges of plotting to kidnap an Israeli soldier and shooting Jews.

His boss was Hasham Abed Hajaz, who had been sentenced to 10 life terms in prison for involvement in the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Hajaz was deported to Qatar, where he returned to terrorist activities even though he was not allowed to return to his home in Gaza.

He met with Sa’ad in Jordan earlier this year and taught him methods for shooting at Israelis, kidnapping a soldier and recruiting terrorists. Israeli authorities arrested him before he carried out plans to travel to Sudan for further terror training.

“He was supposed to receive four weapons from an unknown courier acting on behalf of Hajaz,” according to security officials.

Israel Ranks 10th in Number of Millionaires per Capita

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Israel is the home to 84,000 millionaires, putting it in 10th place in the world’s ranking of the number of millionaires as a percentage of the number of households, according to The Boston Consulting Group, in its report “Maintaining Momentum in a Complex World: Global Wealth 2013.”

In percentage term, there is a millionaire in one of every 92 households

“Israel had about 84,000 millionaire households in 2012, and there are plenty of thriving businesses here to keep them afloat, from booming technology companies to exploiters of natural gas fields,” according to the report.

It noted that Israel is a large exporter of diamonds and agricultural products.

The Boston Consulting Group reported that global household wealth grew by 7.8% in 2012, to $135.5 trillion, double the 3.6% growth in 2011 in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Qatar topped the rankings with 50,000 millionaire households, 14.3% of all households, out of a population of 2 million. It was followed by Switzerland, Kuwait, Hong Kong, and Singapore

The United States, with 5.87 million millionaire households, has the largest number of such households, amounting to 4.9% of all households.

Kerry Hosts ‘Peace Process Partner’ Livni to Advance PA Demands

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s de facto “peace process minister,” is in Washington for talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is fresh from winning a supposed “concession” from the Arab League for the American-sponsored peace process.

Kerry has come up with a proposal to adopt most of the Saudi 2002 Peace Initiative, which is virtually everything that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has demanded.

Kerry’s mission is to make a deal. Getting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to agree on the final status of an independent Arab country under the aegis of the Palestinian Authority would be a glorious triumph for Kerry, possibly the stepping stone to the White House in  2016.

To get there, he is taking the course of least resistance, meaning the Israeli government.

Enter his real peace partner, Tzipi Livni.

Prime Minister Netanyahu holds the portfolio of Foreign Minister until there is a court decision on whether Avigdor Lieberman is guilty of fraud or can return to his former post. In the meantime, Netanyahu hurriedly bought Livni’s tiny party of six Knesset Members into the government by granting her the responsibility for handling the American effort for Palestinian Authority peace talks, one of Livni’s pet hobbies.

She and Kerry have the same goal, a deal at any cost with the prize of international admiration.

He came away from a meeting with the Arab League last week and tried to sell Israel a bill of goods of the Great Concession: The Arab supposedly are prepared to amend the Saudi 2002 Peace Initiative and back “land swaps,” meaning Israel would have their approval for sovereignty over a small amount of the land that was restored to the country in the Six-Day War in 1967.

In return, Israel would fork over an equal amount of land that has been part of the country since 1948.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik al-Thani, whose kingdom has been unusually aggressive in handing out fat checks to Hamas and is pouring money into Arab areas of Jerusalem as well as the Palestinian Authority, led the Arab League delegation.

He agreed that perhaps – maybe if this and maybe if that, and if Israel behaves – the League could agree to “minor” land swaps.

For Kerry, this was a big concession. He “broke” the back of the Arabs and all that is left for him to do is tell Israel it is the best thing for the country since felafel.

“The Arab League delegation affirmed … the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land,” he declared.

Of course, no one has any idea of what “minor” land swaps could mean, but you can rest your bottom dinar it does not mean that Israel would retain Gush Etzion. Maaleh Adumim? Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot, French Hill, Pisgat Ze’ev and Talpiot, among others? Could be.

And Gilo? Probably not.

It does not matter now. The most important thing for Kerry and Livni, his one-woman Israeli government fan club, is to talk it up. It does not matter to them that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal already has rejected the idea. But they can take of him later and drop Hamas from the list of outlawed terrorist organizations, make it a legal terrorist group, and everything will be just fine.

Livni said the Qatari prime minister’s grand concession of possibly, just maybe, agreeing to a  minor land swap was “very positive news.”

And what would land would Israel give up in this “minor” swap. Most likely, enough land to link Gaza with Judea and Samaria.

Of course there is one not so minor point that Kerry has forgotten. Actually, he has not forgotten because the State Dept. does not know any better.

What Israeli Arab in his right mind would give up all the benefits and security he gets from the Israeli government and become subjects of the Palestinian Authority in order to help Kerry’s political career?

The Islamic Winter Blows into Jerusalem

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

One of the biggest complaints of the Syrian regime against the involvement of Qatar in Syria during the past two years is that the Emir of Qatar has been utilizing all of his wealth in fighting the wrong enemy: instead of fighting Israel, which is the true problem of Arabs and Muslims, the Emir of Qatar uses his strength and wealth in a fight against the “resistance” regimes, mainly Syria and Libya, who take a strong stand against Israel and Zionism. Qatar does not usually respond to accusations of this sort, because everyone knows that Israel has always been used to hide the real problems of the Arab and Muslim world, which center around corrupt, rotten, cruel and illegitimate regimes.

However, the Syrian propaganda has ultimately succeeded. Last Tuesday (March 26th), while the Jewish people celebrated the first day of the holiday of freedom, the Arab League summit met in Doha, the capital of Qatar and took two important decisions: one was to arm the Syrian opposition, which also includes – as everyone knows – some al-Qaeda style jihadi groups, such as ” Jabhat al-Nusrah,” to oust Bashar Assad and his regime from the  institutions of the League and to make the Syrian opposition the official representation of Syria in these institutions. And indeed, behind the sign for “the Syrian Arab Republic” in the summit conference, sat Muath al-Khatib, head of the coalition of Syrian opposition organizations.

The second decision was to establish a fund of a billion dollars in order to strengthen the Arab and Muslim character of Jerusalem, and to add a sense of validity and resolve to this decision, Qatar announced that it is donating a half billion dollars to the fund. According to the decision, the fund will serve to finance projects and plans to strengthen the resolve of the residents of Jerusalem and to strengthen the Palestinian economy so that it will be able to free itself from dependence on the Israeli economy. “The Islamic Development Bank” was appointed to manage the fund.

In parallel, the summit conference decided to form a delegation of ministers headed by the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Taib, and it will include members from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt and Morocco as well as the secretary-general of the League. The function of this delegation will be to pressure the American government in the Palestinian matter in general and the issue of Jerusalem in particular.

The question at the moment is whether to relate seriously to Qatar’s intentions, especially in light of the fact that in about one more month we will mark forty-six years of the unification of Jerusalem. This number is important, because in another four years the Islamic world will mark fifty years of the loss of Jerusalem and its return to the Jewish bosom, and an era of fifty years has a symbolic significance of permanence and perpetuity. Our assumption must be that Qatar relates to the matter of Jerusalem with total seriousness, for several reasons:

First, Islamic rule in East Jerusalem, and especially in the area of the Temple Mount, implies, according to Islam, the abolition of Judaism, and is supposed to prove the Islamic notion that Islam has come into the world in order to replace Judaism and Christianity. Muslims cannot tolerate Jewish rule on the Temple Mount because from their point of view it means that Judaism has again become a relevant religion after Islam had superseded it when Islam arrived in the world in the seventh century C.E.

Second, because more than anything else, Jewish rule on the Temple Mount symbolizes the Israeli victories over the Arab world in the wars since 1948. This is an insult to the Arab honor and Islamic pride.

Third, there is not and cannot be another interpretation in this matter: the Jews can live as “dhimmis” (a protected people) of Islam as long as they accept upon themselves the limits that the Muslim regime places upon them, and in no way can they be permitted to live as sovereign and ruling masters on the land and in the places that Islam has consecrated for itself such as the Temple Mount, which, since the end of the seventh century, has been called “the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dr-mordechai-kedar/the-islamic-winter-blows-into-jerusalem/2013/04/04/

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