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Qatar’s Role in Supporting Extremism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Qatar’s National Flag

Cairo, Aden, Riyadh, Ramallah, Beirut, London – Qatar has come under the spotlight in the past week over its role in backing terrorist and extremist factions across the Arab world such as al-Nusra Front, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas Movement and the Libyan Fighting Group.

The support for such groups was accompanied with Doha’s development of ties with both Israel and Iran.

Open and Secret Violations

In the statement that Saudi Arabia issued after cutting ties with Qatar, Riyadh spoke of “grave, open and secret violations committed by the authorities in Doha for years. These violations have aimed at dividing the Saudi internal scene and encouraged attempts to undermine its sovereignty.”

It accused Qatar of harboring several terrorist and sectarian groups that seek to target stability in the region. These organizations include the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaeda.

It has also supported the Iran-backed terrorist groups active in al-Qatif province in Saudi Arabia and others in Bahrain, the statement said.

The terrorist groups in Qatif have an Iranian agenda aimed at creating strife and attacking state institutions and police.

Inflaming the Situation in Yemen

The developments in Yemen in the past three years revealed that Qatar played a huge role in stirring internal conflicts under different slogans.

Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood (The Yemeni Congregation for Reform party) and Houthi insurgents under the pretext that it was mediating to stop the conflict, observers said.

Mediator in Lebanon

In Lebanon and during the 2006 war, Qatar mediated between Lebanon and Israel to reach a ceasefire. “Hezbollah” welcomed the role of Qatar after it promised financial support to rebuild towns and villages destroyed by Israeli warplanes.

This allowed Doha to become a player in internal disputes. It hosted the Doha conference which followed Hezbollah’s military attacks in Beirut and Mount Lebanon in May 2008.

The Doha Agreement ended the country’s 18-month crisis and led to the election of Michel Suleiman as a consensual presidential candidate.

Double Standards in Syria

Despite political differences on Syria, Doha hasn’t lost its indirect mediation role between “Hezbollah” or the Syrian regime on one side and extremist opposition groups or terrorist organizations on the other.

One of such roles was Qatar’s mediation in the release of Lebanese pilgrims abducted in Aazaz in northwest Syria in 2013 in return for setting free dozens of prisoners from Syrian jails and two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon.

It played a similar role in setting free nuns taken hostage by al-Nusra Front in Maaloula near Damascus and the release of Lebanese servicemen taken hostage by the same group following an incursion to the Lebanese border town of Arsal in 2014.

Sowing Division among Palestinians

Qatar has never stopped its attempts to weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority by backing financially the Hamas movement which took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 and by resorting to tarnishing the image of the PA through the Doha-funded Al Jazeera channel.

The Qatari and Iranian support helped Hamas impose its hegemony on Gaza and confront the PA, which led to huge inter-Palestinian divisions that harmed the Palestinian cause.

In 2009, Qatar invited Hamas leader to an Arab summit, a move that sought to de-legitimize Abbas.

Al Jazeera had its share in distorting Abbas’ image when in 2001 it broadcast official documents on meetings held between the PA and Israel in which it accused the authority of “coordinating with Israel to kill Palestinians.”

Qatar’s targeting of Abbas reached its climax when the former emir visited the Gaza Strip in 2012, ignoring the Palestinian leader and dealing with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Egypt’s Suffering Continues

Egypt has in the past years witnessed many terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and other cities. Hundreds of officials, civilians, soldiers and policemen have been killed since the military overthrew Qatar-backed president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has lately accused countries, which he did not name, of sponsoring terrorism and taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to send extremists across the border.

Adel al-Amdah, an advisor at the Nasser Higher Military Academy (NHMA) in Cairo, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt’s decision to cut its relations with Qatar came at the right time.

Asked if there was any evidence on Doha’s involvement in violence and in backing extremists in Egypt, Amdah said: “Of course … Had Cairo and the Arab League not been sure of such information, they wouldn’t have cut ties with it.”

“There has been clear evidence on the involvement of terrorist groups backed by Qatar in acts in several Arab countries, including Egypt,” he said.

Threatening the Libyan State

As for Libya, Dr. Mohammed al-Zubaidi, the former head of the legal committee of the Libyan tribes conference, said that Qatar’s role in Libya, including its military and financial support for extremists, ruined all chances to establish a state.

Zubaidi also said that Doha-backed media outlets stirred strife in Libya by reporting fake news and falsifying facts.

While the Arab world was busy confronting the so-called Arab Spring, Qatar took advantage of the situation and passed many resolutions against Libya, including the suspension of its Arab League membership, and a request by the League from the UN Security Council for international intervention, which ultimately led to NATO’s meddling and the destruction of institutions, he said.

Zubaidi said Doha destroyed Libya’s social fabric by buying off Libyan tribes, which caused disputes among different tribes, the effects of which remain to this day.

He added that Qatar backed certain militias by providing them with money and weapons. “This led to instability and had negative effects on neighboring countries.”