Diplomacy

Week in Review: Cutting Off Qatar; Hezbollah Takes on the U.S.

Cutting Off Qatar

In a diplomatic earthquake this week, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar over its support for terrorism and its growing closeness to Iran. Yemen, the Maldives, and the government of eastern Libya subsequently cut ties with the oil-rich emirate. Riyadh also closed its border with Doha, gave Qatari citizens 14 days to leave the country, and kicked Qatar out of the military alliance fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Financial Times reported that a $1 billion ransom payment made by Qatar to Iran and al-Qaeda was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The payment, issued to free Qatari royals who were kidnapped in Iraq, was viewed “one of a series [of payments to support terrorists] since the beginning of the [Syrian civil] war.”

Later in the week, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir listed a number of terms that Qatar needed to meet to resolve the crisis with its Arab neighbors. He called on Qatar to stop funding the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which he said seek to undermine Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Jubeir also referred to Qatar’s “hostile media and interference in affairs of other countries,” an apparent reference to broadcaster Al Jazeera. In 2010, a leaked confidential cable from America’s ambassador to Qatar called the station “an informal tool of [the Government of Qatar’s] foreign policy.”

Now that America’s Gulf allies have isolated Qatar, “Washington should put pressure on the government in Doha to pick a side,” Josh Block, CEO and president of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed published Friday in the Los Angeles Times. He noted that Qatar “has gotten away with its opportunistic, two-faced foreign policy for too long.”

In Qatar’s Rise and America’s Tortured Middle East Policy, which was published in the August 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Spyer described how Qatar used its natural gas reserves, extensive cash holdings, and its hosting of Al-Udeid, the largest U.S. airbase on foreign soil, to prompt allies to look away from its terror support and ties, especially to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

In The Fruitful Game: How Qatar Uses Soccer to Polish Its Image, which was published in the October 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Ben Cohen documented how Qatar used its participation in international soccer to deflect criticisms for its terror support and human rights abuses.

Hezbollah Takes on the U.S. — Twice

In two seemingly unrelated news stories this week, Hezbollah or its agents threatened the United States.

The Iran-backed terrorist group warned the U.S. on Wednesday that it could attack its positions in Syria if Washington crossed any “red lines.” The U.S., United Kingdom, and Norway are training Syrian rebels in Tanf, near the border with Jordan and Iraq, to fight ISIS. But the base is located along a highway that connects Baghdad to Damascus. With Iran-backed Shiite militias capturing territory on the Iraqi border with Syria, control of Tanf would allow Iran-backed forces to link up and give Tehran a land route all the way into Lebanon.

Hezbollah made the threat after releasing video footage purporting to show a drone following an American one. Hezbollah suggested that if it could track a U.S. drone unmolested, it could also attack U.S. forces at will. On Thursday, U.S. planes shot down a drone that appeared to have been made in Iran and used in defense of the Assad regime after it attacked U.S.-backed forces.

On Thursday, it was announced that two Hezbollah recruits were arrested for helping the Iranian proxy plan attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets. Both suspects are accused of receiving military training by Hezbollah. One had scouted U.S. government offices in New York City for Hezbollah. He also told the FBI that he had conveyed security protocols at JFK International Airport to his handler. The second suspect had gone to Panama and scouted out the U.S. and Israeli embassies. He also reported back to Hezbollah on the vulnerabilities of ships passing through the Panama Canal and the canal itself.

The threats of Hezbollah in Syria, and the presence of two operatives in the U.S. planning terror attacks at the behest of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization, which was described in congressional testimony this week as “the group’s international terrorist apparatus,” are reminders why Hezbollah has been called “the tip of an Iranian imperial spear.”

Celebrating Unified Jerusalem at 50

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and reunification of Jerusalem this week underscored the close ties between the United States and Israel, and underlined the strong bipartisan support in for Israel in Washington.

A bipartisan resolution calling for Jerusalem to “remain the undivided capital of Israel,” which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Ken.) and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.) and 43 other senators, unanimously passed the Senate on Monday 90 to 0.

On Wednesday, Congress and Knesset held their first-ever joint event celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) said at the event that America’s commitment to Israel — dating back to President Harry Truman, who recognized Israel within minutes of its founding — is a “legacy—one that’s been tried and tested over the years.”

Ryan’s Israeli counterpart, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, noted that the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule allowed for people of all faiths to freely access their holy sites. “Where the sounds of Jewish prayer mingle with the voice of the muezzin and church bells. Where pilgrims come to seek God in synagogues, mosques and churches. This is Jerusalem. Reunified fifty years ago today, never to be re-divided,” he said.

Edelstein also used his speech to call for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity to express his appreciation to the U.S. for its friendship, saying, “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel surely has no better friend than the United States of America.”

Though President Donald Trump signed a waiver postponing any plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem earlier this month, legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich observed that by making a big deal over the delay, Trump changed the dynamic. “It used to be a non-event, it was taken for granted that the president was not going to move the embassy,” Kontorovich observed. Now, moving the embassy is a matter for discussion and very much on the president’s agenda, he said.

Feature: Corbyn’s Ascendance: A Dark Day for the UK

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s successful campaign efforts to prevent Theresa May from forming a Conservative-only government shows that “apparently you can for decades rub shoulders with extremists and get away with it in a general election,” Julie Lenarz wrote in analysis of Thursday’s elections in the United Kingdom.

Labour’s (relative) success, which comes despite its leader’s long-time associations with extremists, terror supporters, and Holocaust deniers, was boosted by Corbyn’s “personal appeal” and “a manifesto that promised everything without explaining how it would be done.” Lenarz had previously documented Corbyn’s long record of associating with extremists.

Had Labour lost seats during the election, it may have been possible for the party to have shed Corbyn and his malign influence. However, having momentarily improved Labour’s fortunes, “Corbyn and his clique are not going to go anywhere and will change the Labour Party beyond recognition.”

Corbyn’s success this week “is not just a sad day for Jews,” whose enemies he embraces, but “it is a dark day for the country,” Lenarz wrote.

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Three Big Questions

Iran has carried out at least 20 executions since President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected last month. During his first four years in office, executions were carried out at a faster rate than during the administration of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Given that Rouhani has yet to live up to his supposed reputation as a reformer, isn’t it time to finally shed the term “moderate” when describing him?

A few weeks ago, Hamas issued a new political document that prompted some to report that it had moderated. Now that Avi Issacharoff reported that Hamas has raised an army of 27,000 men to fight Israel — including training them to infiltrate into Israel to capture and kill civilians — shouldn’t that be proof enough that the document changed nothing in the terror group’s outlook and goals?

During her recent visit to Israel, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Netanyahu that she has no patience for the world body’s bullying of Israel. As governor of South Carolina, Haley stood up to anti-Israel bullies by signing the first law prohibiting a state from doing business with any company that boycotts Israel. Can her efforts be enough to change the UN’s deeply ingrained anti-Israel culture?