Trump Enters Qatar Crisis Mediation Efforts

US President Trump greets Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington

After Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah visited Washington and met with US president, the Qatari crisis went back to square one.

President Donald Trump accepted Sheikh Sabah’s invitation take part in mediating the Qatar crisis, entering the second phase in efforts meant to resolve the dispute. Assuming his role, Trump, in his distinctive style, made a public announcement on Qatar having to cease supporting terrorism.

The emir’s decision to involve Trump is admirable—Doha, which had refused to make concessions with Sheikh Sabah, now will have to deal with President Trump.

Sheikh Sabah noted that Kuwait has suffered from Qatar’s threat. Not only by the rabble rousing spurred by the Doha-run news channel Al Jazeera, but also earlier dispute that was kept under the radar.

The dispute revolved on Qatar’s funding of Kuwaiti opposition outside the country’s parliament house and supporting street protesters against the government.

Qatar found itself an argument in proclaimed sovereignty rights, a case which does not apply in matters of export, financing, and incitement of violence against other states.

In turn, Kuwaiti authorities were forced to bare their teeth by making multiple arrests against prominent protestors, shutting down newspapers, closing television broadcasts and stripping some of their Kuwaiti nationality. Most of these problems were backed by Doha’s authorities. Sheikh Sabah told Trump and the world that Kuwait has suffered from Qatar’s interventions and from its degenerate media.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain echo Kuwait’s complaints, however they have vowed to confront the source. With only a mere 90 days since the Arab quartet boycotted Qatar, to some, the crisis seems to have been an ongoing burden for decades. While not a single drop of blood was shed, Qatar swayed its people’s attention away from the major wars in the region. The wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, instead it put its own screams in the spotlight.
Qatar’s screams faded within the last three months, unable to change the four countries’ decisions, they did not budge. The world now lives in less chaos without Qatar, but Qatar seems unable to adapt to the new circumstances. It wants to force the four countries to lift the boycott, running from one platform to another, from one organization to another, from one mediator to another.

All of Qatar’s campaigns achieved nothing. It was Qatar who broke the Kuwaiti Emir’s mediation when it could have accepted the Arab quartet’s demands. Most of the demands were already stipulated in the Riyadh Agreement of 2014 which Qatar signed three years ago in the presence of Kuwait’s Emir, only to then fail to meet the demands of the agreement.

Qatar seeks refuge in its proclaimed sovereignty. There is no sovereignty in the export, financing and incitement of violence against other states. Sovereignty may be permissible if the Qatari government incites and finances it only within its borders. But hosting and funding personalities and organizations calling for overthrowing other countries’ regimes have serious consequences.

Qatar stands alone because everyone is bored and tired. They also hate the country’s actions and their support for extremist groups. As stated in the Arab quartet’s explanatory statement, there is a unanimity in the region against Qatar. Be certain that most of the Arab states whom are officially silent, stand with the quartet and agree that Qatar’s funding of extremist groups in their countries and the region must stop. Most of these silent countries are ready to diplomatically support the countries against Qatar by advising the US administration to stand firm against its government and more.

EU Counter-Terror Official Warns of Tens of Thousands of Extremists

Brussels, London- The European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, has warned of the presence of more than 50,000 extremists, including those considered “really worrying.”

He singled out Britain as having more extremists than any other country in Europe. “The United Kingdom has identified 20,000 to 35,000 radicals,” said de Kerchove.

Of these, 3,000 are worrying for MI5, and of those 500 are under constant and special attention.

There are tens of thousands of extremists in Europe, he warned, giving a number of more than 50,000.

“We must select those who are really worrying and the most dangerous, and they should be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the EU official said.

He also warned that European countries will suffer further attacks inspired by ISIS, saying greater measures must be taken to prevent them.

De Kerchove told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper a few weeks ago that threats in Europe have become more complicated after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and other European cities.

Several European countries believe that the dangers of extremist attacks in the EU are increasing as ISIS continues to suffer defeats in Iraq and Syria.

They believe that some of the foreign fighters will attempt to return to EU countries.

Risks of Iran Nuclear Deal Collapse

We can sense fear in statements made by Iranian officials and most recently President Hassan Rouhani who warned against the consequences of the big scheme’s collapse – the reconciliation agreement with the West based on the nuclear deal signed during the term of former US President Barack Obama.

The Congress shocked the Iranian government when it reinstated a number of economic sanctions on Iran, and US President Donald Trump insisted on his stance that the nuclear agreement serves Iran more than the US, threatening to abolish it.

Countries of the European Union (EU) are keen to preserve the agreement, which they believe it ushered in a new phase with the Iranian regime. Since signing it, they rushed to seal huge trade deals with Tehran, a move that was previously not possible because the US government would have put any European company that dealt with Iran on the blacklist.

Arab states, especially Gulf countries, were the most provoked by this agreement. They were neither against sealing a deal that eradicates the Iranian nuclear danger nor against dealing commercially with Iran but objected over its high cost – extending Iran’s powers via fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and threatening other Arab states.

In case Iran considered that imposing sanctions abolishes the nuclear deal then it will resume uranium enrichment, renewing tension. Iran offers the West two options: its nuclear project that will threaten the West and Israel in the future, or being allowed to have hegemony over the region.

Tehran used the second option as a weapon to blackmail the West: Obama’s administration struck with it a deal that only aims at halting its nuclear program, allowing it to enjoy its powers in several areas, including those that the US considers as interest zones such as the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yet, Iran’s commitment to ceasing the nuclear project is a significant progress that makes Iran worthy of the removal of economic and commercial sanctions. But Obama’s administration went so far in its concessions and allowed Tehran to wage wars, for the first time and in a direct manner, even in states not lying on its border such as Syria and Yemen.

The nuclear agreement is partially responsible for the region’s chaos.

There are more than 50,000 extremists fighting in Syria – directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and brought in from various countries at the time when the international community was endeavoring to get rid of extremist groups such as ISIS.

Because the nuclear agreement was negotiated discreetly between the Obama and Rouhani teams, the region hasn’t been aware of its details until recently – the Obama administration left behind it a dangerous mine. Iran has become more aggressive after signing the agreement, this is evident.

The deal might succeed in disrupting the nuclear project for another decade but it has fueled a more dangerous war in the Middle East and posed an unprecedented level of threat to regimes since the revolution in Iran in 1979. It also reinforced extremists in Tehran.

The new Iranian threats against the US economic sanctions must be taken seriously because they trigger Iran’s way of imposing what it wants via violence and chaos. But the US relapse in Syria represents a huge tactical mistake because Syria is where Iran can be besieged and obliged to cooperate regionally and internationally.

There is a contradiction here because Washington is escalating with Iran on the nuclear level and allowing it to operate freely on the Syrian front.

LNA Spokesman Says Qatar Sent Armed Forces to Benghazi, Controls Tripoli’s Power Supply

Libyan Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari speaks during a news conference in the coastal city of Benghazi.

Cairo, London- Libya National Army Spokesman Colonel Ahmad al-Mesmary revealed on Friday that multiple conflict zones overrun by extremist militias were run by Doha.

He further clarified his claims by saying that direct funding and deployment of an armed faction into eastern Benghazi took place in 2012, and still is present till this very day under the name Al-Fad Al-Aswaad (Arabic for ‘black panther’).

Col. Mesmary said in a televised broadcast that Qatar also has its grip around power networks in Libya’s Tripoli.

He also demanded that Libya joins the Saudi-led Gulf plus Egypt boycott against Qatar.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia along with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a boycott on Qatar on June 5 and cut off all transport links with the country after accusing it of supporting terrorism and close ties to Iran.

According to press reports, Qatar has been sending massive amounts of weapons and cash to Islamist militants battling the Western-backed government in Libya. A March 2013 UN report noted that in 2011 and 2012, Qatar violated the UN arms embargo by “providing military material to the revolutionary forces through the organization of a large number of flights and the deliveries of a range of arms and ammunition.”

On the other hand, Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar is scheduled to visit Moscow on Saturday for discussions over a peace plan including a ceasefire and political talks, a Russian official said Friday.

Haftar will discuss “the issue of his eventual meeting with the prime minister” of Libya’s recognized government, Fayez al-Sarraj, said Lev Dengov, who heads Russia’s Libya contact group.

“Relevant questions on reconciling the parties and the conflict will be raised,” Dengov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Oil-rich Libya has been in turmoil since the ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, turning the country into a hub for human trafficking and drawing extremist groups from the region.

The United Nations has been struggling for months to relaunch talks on a deal reached in 2015 on setting up a national unity government that has been rejected by Haftar and other factions.

Appointed last year to lead the new government of national accord, Sarraj has failed to assert authority outside of Tripoli while Haftar’s forces this month scored a major military victory when they seized Benghazi, Libya’s second city.

The pair reached agreement on a new peace initiative during talks hosted last month by French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the 10-point joint declaration, Sarraj and Haftar agreed to work on a roadmap for security and defense, unifying national institutions such as the National Oil Corporation and the central bank, and hold elections as soon as possible.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army is backed by Russia, Egypt and the UAE and recently liberated Benghazi after a three-year campaign against ultra-hardline groups.

Congressional Testimonies Rail against Doha’s Terror Funding

Beirut- Senior Vice President at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Dr. Jonathan Schanzer on Wednesday presented an eye-opening congressional testimony on substances revolving around Qatar’s unwarranted support for radical groups.

Schanzer’s testimonial came with distinguishable focus on Qatar’s support for a range of extremist groups and grievances regional states hold against Doha’s foreign policy.

“We have noted through the excellent work of my colleague David Andrew Weinberg that Qatar has failed to take action against numerous US- and UN-designated terrorist financiers living in Qatar.”

Dr. Schanzer is part of the leadership team of FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, which provides policy and subject matter expertise on the use of financial and economic power to the global policy community.

Also reviewing the nuances of the current Qatar spat, the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence director Dr. Matthew Levitt presented a personal overview on the gas-rich peninsula’s undying advocacy and support to extremist groups.

“The US has also long criticized the Qatari government for its lax counterterrorism policies, and in particular shortcomings regarding efforts to combat terrorist financing,” said Levitt.

Qatar’s “open-door policy” has welcomed in members of many extremist groups such as Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the Afghan Taliban, acting as a safe-haven and providing a platform for terrorist incitement, said Levitt.

Both Schanzer and Levitt testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

Levitt adds that for the past few years, Khaled Meshal, who stepped down as the senior leader of Hamas this past May, has been living in Doha. Meshal is a US-designated terrorist.

Commenting on Doha’s detrimental foreign policy, Schanzer highlights that “Qatar has been an obvious area of interest in light of its incredibly brazen and open support for terrorist groups.”

Speaking on the FDD’s review on Qatari regional actions and agenda, Schanzer adds that the institute has been constant.

“Our critique of Qatari foreign policy has been consistent. We have pointed to Qatari support for Hamas, the Taliban, jihadists in Syria, jihadists in Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

In recent years, Qatar has housed leaders from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban, and has also provided a platform for extremist leaders to spread their ideology through shows on Al-Jazeera.

Respected Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also hit out at Qatar’s support for terrorism, at a hearing of the congressional subcommittee.

“At least one high ranking Qatari official provided support to the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks against our country –Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Then of course there was Khalifa Mohammed who is a US, EU and UN designated international terrorist for his role in financing Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 mastermind.”

“In 2008 he was tried and convicted in absentia for his terrorist activity and arrested later that year by Qatar only to be released by the Qataris 6 months later and then openly financed by Doha,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

On that note, in 2014, the then-Treasury Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen had reported that Qatar has openly financed Hamas for many years, and continues to contribute to regional instability.

“This threatens to aggravate an already volatile situation in a particularly dangerous and unwelcome manner,” concluded Cohen.

On the flipside Cohen recognized efforts, although insufficient, spent by Doha on addressing terrorist financing, he called on the government in Doha to continue working with the US on the matter.

He particularly notes the pressing need to cooperate on dealing with the ongoing solicitation of donations that fund extremist insurgents under the guise of humanitarian work.

FDD’s Schanzer also said that the group has worked hard to educate Congress, the executive, and the American public on the challenge of Qatar.

“We found that the previous administration was generally willing to listen, but was unwilling to redress the problem,” he comments.

On resolving the row with Qatar, Levitt adds that the recently Doha-US signed memorandums of understanding and amendments are important steps to ensuring Qatar seriously addresses the ongoing issue of terrorist financing happening within and beyond its borders.

“However, Doha has a weak track record of implementing and enforcing the terms of agreements. Moreover, the steps they have taken thus far are vague, and it is unclear to what extent they will actually address the ongoing issues in Qatar,” he adds.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain collectively designated 59 individuals and 12 institutions accused of financing terrorist organizations and receiving support from Qatar.

Many of these entities were previously designated by the United States and United Nations for financing al-Qaeda, though the list includes others with ties to Muslim Brotherhood and extremists in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere.

“The list provides Doha an opportunity to help resolve its fight with its Gulf Cooperation Council neighbors, and a way to save face while doing so,” concluded Levitt.

British Prison for Fundamentalists to Evade Spreading Extremist Intellect among Inmates

London- British interior ministry sources have revealed that some highly dangerous fundamentalist members in British prisons were transferred last week to what has become known as the “British Guantanamo” in Durham, a step that falls under the government efforts to eradicate the extremist intellect in prisons.

This new prison is known among terrorism experts and the British media as the “British Guantanamo” for being the first of three centers established inside prisons to incarcerate 28 inmates accused of committing violent extremist crimes.

Michael Adebolajo, who is accused of killing Lee Rigby, and extremist preacher Anjem Choudary are among those isolated in the new prison.

A British court had issued a life-imprisonment sentence in the case of Islamists for killing British soldier Rigby in one of London’s streets in 2014.

“Those who spread views that might incite others to commit terrorist offenses, or whose extremist views are purposely undermining good order and security in jails, could also be shifted to one of the facilities,” said the British Ministry of Justice in a statement.

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah declared that the isolation centers were “an absolutely crucial element of our wider strategy to tackle extremism in prisons and ensure the safety of the wider public.”

More than 4,500 frontline prison officers have been trained to identify and challenge extremist views and new recruits will receive the training as standard.

“Extremism must be defeated wherever it is found. The most dangerous and subversive offenders are now being separated from those they seek to influence and convert,” Gyimah added.

However, the justice ministry refused to confirm whether the decision to transfer the inmates has other security reasons.

German Police Prepare for Protests at G20 Summit

Some 7,000 anti-capitalist protesters are expected to converge on Hamburg next month for the G20 summit and police are bracing for violence, a German security official said on Friday.

Leaders of the G20 leading economies will hold a July 7-8 summit in Germany’s second-largest city posing a challenge for the 20,000 police officers who will secure the event.

Their task will be compounded by a planned demonstration against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the official added.

Turkish nationalists who support Erdogan are also expected to hold a rival demonstration in support of the Turkish leader, raising the prospect of violence, the official said.

Police expect some 3,000 pro-PKK activists and rival Erdogan supporters to show up in the city.

The Higher Administrative Court of Hamburg on Friday banned a camp that anti-capitalist protesters had planned to set up in a park in the city, using up to 3,000 tents and offering beds and food to demonstrators.

The court ruled in favor of the City of Hamburg and police, who had rejected a request to set up the protest camp from June 30 until July 9.

Police will also have to secure the summit against a possible attack by extremist militants. US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend the talks.

UK Five Terror Plots since Westminster Attacks

London

London – The ringleader of the London attack last weekend tried to rent a 7.5-ton truck, British police have said, indicating the attackers were looking to carry out a larger-scale assault.

The UK has thwarted five plots since the Westminster attacks in March, said London police chief Cressida Dick.

“London will not be cowed by extremists who have killed 35 people in three separate attacks in Britain, but police will ask for more resources to tackle the security threats,” she added.

The attacks are domestic plans, Cressida said, adding that there are international connections and links in the last three attacks.

“Getting hold of a 7.5 ton lorry – the effects could have been even worse,” said head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command Dean Haydon.

Although ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, Haydon said there was no evidence the attackers – Pakistani-born Briton Khuram Butt, Italian Youssef Zaghba and Rachid Redouane who had links to Libya, Morocco and Ireland – were directed by anyone else, either in Britain or abroad.

“We’re not looking for a wider network,” said Haydon, adding that officers were still trying to piece together how the three men had met.

“How did they know each other? They are a diverse bunch,” he said.

“We are highly effective at preventing attacks in this country and we will step up a gear and do our level best to stop any further attacks. But, as you point out, highly volatile people who are intent on doing something absolutely terrible and who are quite happy – maybe even pleased – to kill themselves and to use low-tech methods – these are difficult things to defend against,” Dick concluded.

Qatar…Test for Trump’s Anti-Terror Plan

Qatar

Will this duplicitous nation cut off terrorist financing, or coordinate with the Pentagon, or both?

For a brief moment it looked like President Donald Trump had done it.

He got the leaders of six Gulf nations to sign a communique pledging to eradicate the financing of extremists. The timing happened to coincide with the completion of a new center in Saudi Arabia to combat extremism. It was a powerful signal that America’s traditional allies were united against Iran and extremists.

That lasted a couple of days. By Tuesday however tension started with a quotation attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, which Qatar’s official news agency quoted him telling a graduating class of national service recruits that it was important to calm tensions with Iran, that Hamas and Hezbollah were legitimate resistance movements, and that his country has every right to host Muslim Brotherhood leaders. That last organization is banned in most Gulf countries as well as Egypt.

The speech prompted outrage from Qatar’s Arab neighbors. Al-Jazeera, the broadcaster funded in part by the Qatari government, was banned in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the sheikh’s reported remarks. (The Qataris have said that the official news agency was hacked and that the remarks were never delivered.) Nonetheless, official newspapers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have slammed the Qataris for the past week, accusing the small nation in the words of one columnist of being a “disobedient son.”

This kind of thing is to be expected in the region. But the conflict also played out in Washington. The setting was a wonky policy conference on Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.

Normally the politics of the Middle East don’t really intrude on such affairs. But the US ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, contacted many of the panelists in the days before the conference last week to make the case that Qatar’s new sheikh, who came into power in 2013, is committed to reforming his country’s notoriously lax attitude toward extremists, thus, he signed the communique on terror financing earlier this month.

There are some pieces of evidence about Qatar’s recent turnaround, but this tiny country has a long history of playing both sides. On the one hand Qatar hosts one of America’s most important military facilities in the region, the Al-Udeid Air Base. And yet at the same time, its neighbors accuse Qatar of running an influence campaign against the US and its allies.

Consider Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi. He was a respected Qatari history professor and the founder of the AlKarama foundation, a human rights organization that focuses on political prisoners in the Islamic world. Then at the end of 2013, the Treasury Department designated him as a financier of al Qaeda. Nonetheless, nearly a year later, the “Daily Mail” reported that he continued to live openly in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

More recently the Qataris have been a host to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Palestinian group, and when Hamas leaders unveiled a new set of principles this month, they made the announcement from a hotel in Doha.

At last week’s conference in Washington, former secretary of defense Robert Gates talked about how he traveled to Qatar for the George W. Bush administration to make the case to the Qataris to stop tolerating terror groups inside their country. “There was a good deal of nodding and explanation, but we didn’t see much change,” he said. Gates concluded: “So we have had a peculiar relationship. There have continued to be political issues with Qatar even as we have been strategic military allies.”

That peculiar relationship will now be tested. As Muslim leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia this month, one of the first tests of this new policy will be whether Qatar shows initiative in rooting out the terror supporters inside its own kingdom. It’s less clear how Qatar will respond when the rest of the world isn’t watching.

Bloomberg View

Gunman Opens Fire on Champs Elysees, French Police Officer Killed

One police officer was killed and two others wounded Thursday in a shooting on Paris’s famed Champs Elysees, just days ahead of France’s presidential election, police said.

AFP cited France’s interior ministry stating that the gunman was killed after opening fire on the officers on the boulevard. Anti-terror prosecutors have opened an investigation.

“The attacker arrived by car and got out. He opened fire on a police car with an automatic weapon, killing one of the police officers and trying to attack others while running,” a police source told AFP, asking not be named.

The bustling shopping street in the heart of the city was blocked by armed officers and nearby metro stations closed.

The election has long been seen as a potential target of extremists. Witnesses recounted scenes of panic as people ran for cover and sought shelter.

“We had to hide our customers in the basement,” Choukri Chouanine, manager of a restaurant near the site of the shooting, told AFP, saying there was “lots of gunfire.”

Dozens of vehicles from the emergency services were sent to the area, where a helicopter was also deployed.

As the first details filtered through, US President Donald Trump sent his condolences and said that “it looks like another terrorist attack. What can you say? It just never ends.”

The shooting comes two days after the arrest of two men in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives who were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first-round of the presidential election on Sunday.