The New York Times over the weekend published a frontpage expose on the regional cascade effects being generated by Qatari support for a range of Middle East Islamist groups, cataloging measures that Doha has taken to boost among others the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State:
Sheikh Ajmi and at least a half-dozen others identified by the United States as private fund-raisers for Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise operate freely in Doha, often speaking at state-owned mosques and even occasionally appearing on Al Jazeera. The state itself has provided at least some form of assistance — whether sanctuary, media, money or weapons — to the Taliban of Afghanistan, Hamas of Gaza, rebels from Syria, militias in Libya and allies of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region.
Doha has long been aligned with an identifiable extremist Sunni axis spanning the region – Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various jihadist elements are traditionally also grouped into that de facto alliance – that has triangulated opposite both an Iranian-anchored Shiite bloc and a camp composed of the U.S.’s traditional Israeli and Arab allies.
Efforts by Gulf nations to bring Qatar back into the Western-oriented fold have, despite occasional declarations of success, failed to move Doha off a set of policies alleged to variously empower Sunni Islamists and Iranian hardliners.
The Times outlined the situation under the headline “Qatar’s Support of Islamists Alienates Allies Near and Far,” describing it as one in which “Qatar is finding itself under withering attack by an unlikely alignment of interests, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel, which have all sought to portray it as a godfather to terrorists everywhere.” The outlet more specifically noted that “some in Washington have accused it of directly supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”
Doha was widely blamed over the summer for backing intransigent elements inside Hamas and thereby deliberately extending this summer’s conflict between the Palestinian terror group and Israel:
Qatar has been home to Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal since 2012 and has carved out a role as a key financial patron for Gaza, buying influence while shoring up an economy overseen by Hamas.
That support is prompting accusations that Qatar helped scuttle a lasting truce in the monthlong Gaza war, piling on pressure as the U.S. ally finds itself increasingly isolated as larger Mideast powers marginalize Islamists following the Arab Spring.
The end of the war then saw reports that Doha would take the lead in rebuilding the territory, including via a flotilla that would seek to break Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza.
The Times simply noted that Qatar “provides a base for leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.” Qatar has also been accused of undermining efforts by the U.S.’s regional allies to isolate Iran, and this summer went so far as to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic republic aimed at boosting bilateral trade.
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