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Posts Tagged ‘Sheikh Hamad’

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.”

Congratulations to Hamas

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

The visit of the Emir of Qatar to the Gaza Strip is certainly an important landmark on the course that the Hamas movement has been advancing since it took over the Strip in June of 2007. Hamas is trying its utmost to establish the independence of the Gaza Strip, vis à vis the PLO, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, the Arab world and everyplace else as well.

They are not giving up the ideology of jihad against Israel, but they have temporarily hung it up on the wall, near the trigger finger and the cross-hair, and they busy themselves with building: infrastructures, roads, institutions, the economy, general industry, military industry and military power. All of these we have been considered internal, local matters, and the leaders of the Arab world did not come to give proper respect to the leaders of Hamas.

The first that arrived was the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the strongest and most influential person in the Arab world, and perhaps even in the whole world. In his pocket are  many billions, and in his hand is the most weighty and dangerous cudgel that exists today in the Arab world: the al-Jazeera channel, which, ever since it was established towards the end of 1996, has continuously incited the Arab masses against the dictators that ruled them, against Israel, against the United States and against the West in general. Al-Jazeera’s agenda overlaps that of the Muslim Brotherhood, and everything it has done over the years was aimed toward promoting the Brotherhood to bring them to power in the Arab states, after the dictators were eliminated.

The first success was in Gaza, where Hamas took over more than five years ago. The second success was Tunisia, where the elimination of President bin Ali in January 2011 allowed the Islamist al-Nahda movement to take over the state. But the high point of al-Jazeera’s success was, and still is, Egypt.

Sheikh Hamad was the one who pushed NATO to get involved in Libya against Qadhaffi, and brought the Libyan Islamists to the corridors of fragile power in the state of the desert tribes overflowing with oil. Sheikh Hamad is behind the Free Syrian Army, which is a group of Islamist militias who are fighting to remove the heretical ‘Alawite regime from Syria and to impose radical Islam upon it.

The visit of Sheikh Hamad in Gaza is a pat on the shoulder to the Hamas people, a shot of legitimacy to their rule, an infusion of 400 million dollars into the budgetary veins and another nail in the coffins of the  PLO and the Palestinian Authority. In the opinion of Sheikh Hamad, King Abbas is dead, long live the new king, Ismail Haniye.

In Israel, they still don’t understand what is happening. The State Department condemns the Qatari Sheikh’s visit in Gaza, because the bleeding hearts of the State Department prefer to close matters with the PLO and Abu Mazen, since they still dream that he will deal with Hamas “without the oversight of the Supreme Court or human rights organizations.” They fell asleep when the Oslo Accords were signed and still have not awakened.

The Office of the Prime Minister, on the other hand, is quiet and does not react. Apparently they understand the true interests of Israel better: To continue the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority into its components, and to continue the split that Sheikh Hamad very much encouraged with his support of Hamas, to the detriment, of course, of the PLO, the PA and Abu Mazen.

If Israel wants to survive, it must say a special prayer of thanks to the King of the world for the visit of Sheikh Hamad to Gaza, and it must continue the process of dismantling that Hamas began – also in Judea and Samaria, by establishing seven separate independent emirates in the seven cities: Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya and the Arab part of Hebron.

Israel must keep the entirety of the rural expanse in its possession, to ensure that the mountains will not become Hamas Mountains and the hills will not become Hizb’Allah Hills. This is how 90 percent of the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria will be free from Israeli rule and Israel will be relieved of including 90 percent of them within its political system, but Israel will keep in its possession more than 90 percent of the territory.

This is the long-term Israeli interest, and thus will Zion be redeemed.

Originally published at Middle East and Terrorism

Hamas PM: Qatar Emir Visit Breaks Gaza Siege

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that Qatar’s emir’s Tuesday’s visit to the Gaza Strip was helping to lift Israel’s blockade, the Ma’an news agency reports.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was the first head of state to enter Gaza since Hams took over, back in 1999.

Analysts see the visit as an attempt by the emir to use his leverage with Western capitals to help rehabilitate Hamas in Western eyes, and move them into mainstream politics.

The tiny Gulf emirate, whose native population is only about the same size as that of the Gaza Strip, hosts one of the biggest US bases in the region. At the same time, it was a major supporter of Islamist groups during the “Arab Spring.” Qatar owns the Al Jazeera television network.

“You are today, by this visit, declaring the breaking of the unjust blockade,” Haniyeh told the Qatari leader in a speech at the site of a new town to be built with Gulf money.

“Today we declare victory against the blockade through this historic visit,” he said. “We say thank you, Emir, thank you Qatar for this noble Arab stance … Hail to the blood of martyrs which brought us to this moment.”

Embarking on what was a state visit in all but name, Sheikh al-Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah crossed from Egypt at the head of a large delegation, to be greeted by Haniyeh and an honor guard.

Thousands of Palestinians lined his route, waving Palestinian and Qatari flags as the convoy with the sheikh in a black Mercedes limousine bumped along the rutted main highway that Qatar has promised to rebuild.

Qatar has called the visit a humanitarian gesture, to inaugurate reconstruction projects financed by the emirate. After initially earmarking $250 million for the schemes, a smiling Haniyeh announced the fund now stood at $400 million.

Haniyeh said the emir had agreed to fund additional projects and to increase funding of existing plans.

Qatar will build a $25 million city for released prisoners, and has increased its funding for another new city in the Gaza Strip by $15 million, he said.

The Gaza premier said Qatar had also agreed to grant $8 million to build a youth rehabilitation center and to donate an extra $13 million to a hospital so patients could be treated in Gaza rather than traveling abroad.

Israel said it was “astounding” that Qatar, a US-allied Gulf state whose oil and gas permit it to punch way above its diplomatic weight, would take sides in the Palestinian dispute and endorse Hamas, branded as terrorists in the West.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the emir, who has met Israeli leaders but not visited the Palestinian Authority of Abbas and his secular Fatah movement in the West Bank, had “never dignified the PA with a visit”.

“No one understands why he would fund an organization which has become notorious with committing suicide bombings and firing rockets on civilians. By hugging Hamas, the Emir of Qatar is really someone who has thrown peace under the bus,” Palmor said.

The Gaza Strip is all but cut off from the world, under blockade by Israel and Egypt by land and sea.

Sheikh Hamad has sought to mediate between Hamas and Fatah in the past, to end the divisions but analysts say there is for now no prospect of reconciliation between the two factions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hamas-pm-qatar-emir-visit-breaks-gaza-siege/2012/10/24/

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