The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani used the occasion of a state visit to Berlin to assure German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Doha “has never and will never support terror organizations” after months of growing international consternation regarding Doha’s alleged role in diplomatically and militarily supporting a range of Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Hamas:
The emir’s visit has been overshadowed by a debate in Germany over Qatar’s agenda concerning the Sunni extremist organization Islamic State, after a German minister accused Qatar of financing the militant group on national television.
“One has to ask the question, who arms, who finances IS troops? The keyword is Qatar,” Development Minister Gerd Müller said in an interview with broadcaster ZDF late last month.
Müller’s comments triggered a not insignificant diplomatic incident that ended with Germany’s foreign ministry apologizing for “misunderstandings.”
The apology triggered a wave of skepticism and criticism from German media outlets and politicians. Al-Thani’s Wednesday remarks prompted Jonathan Schanzer – vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – to sarcastically tweet “case closed,” a gesture toward piles of evidence indicating that Qatar is a significant backer of regional extremist groups and by some measures Hamas’s top global supporter.
The issue long ago began drawing congressional attention, and hearings have been held in recent weeks to probe Qatari support for terror entities:
In an initial statement to the House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) criticized Turkey for providing “financial, material and political support” for Hamas, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, complaining that it “has been doing so for years, without repercussions.”
She also critiqued Qatar – “the very same Qatar that the administration entrusted to monitor the Taliban 5, who were swapped for Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl, and which it recently agreed to an $11 billion arms sale with” as also having “been known to be perhaps Hamas’ largest financial patron.”
Washington’s traditional Arab allies have aligned themselves opposite the Qataris – to the point of pulling ambassadors – and a recent high-level Saudi delegation to Doha reportedly had the Saudis “read[ing] the riot act” to the Qataris, according to Washington Institute fellow Simon Henderson.
Controversy over Qatar’s outsized influence has even in recent weeks engulfed the U.S.-based Brookings Institute, which has a branch in the country and receives tens of millions of dollars from Doha. An article published Wednesday by Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Lee Smith blasted Martin Indyk – vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings, and until recently a top figure in the State Department’s push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement – for having “cashed a $14.8 million check from Qatar.”
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