Qatar's continued ties with some of
the most powerful Islamist groups in the Middle East could cause serious
difficulties for the Obama administration's international coalition to
fight the Islamic State (ISIS), U.S. and Arab officials believe.
The wealthy nation has links with Nusra Front, which is the main al Qaida affiliate in Syria, reports The Wall Street Journal
in addition to Hamas and the Taliban. Diplomats from Washington's
closest Arab allies say Qatar is publicly supporting U.S. policies while
still aiding its enemies.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan have all been pushing
Washington to reprimand Qatar over the relationships, but the country
is considered a vital part of anti-ISIS efforts. Its Al Udeid Air Base
is being used to launch airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq,
and the country is one of five that are formally taking part in the
coalition against the militants.
In addition, Qatar's air force has provided both surveillance and
logistical support for the attacks, reports The Wall Street Journal.
But at the same time, the U.S. Treasury alleges Qatar has been sending
money to Islamist terrorists, including ISIS. For example, officials
said that one wealthy Qatari last year sent $2 million to a senior ISIS
commander tasked with recruiting foreigners to fight with the militants.
The allies are also warning that the coalition against ISIS is at risk
of splitting apart unless members can commit equally to combating the
organization. Middle Eastern countries are deeply split over the role of
Islam in the region, with Qatar and Turkey supporting Islamist
movements while traditional Arab monarchies in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and
Unless financial and diplomatic ties to terror groups are cut, the
allies say, the coalition to defeat ISIS will fail. Further, they
pointed out, Qatar has used its planes for surveillance, but has not yet
launched airstrikes at the extremists.
Some of the pressure from Middle East allies and the United States is
forcing Qatar to make some tough decisions on its stance. For example,
in September, Qatar asked
members of the Muslim Brotherhood to leave its territory.
Qatari officials refused comment on the allegations, but ruler Sheikh
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the country's foreign minister deny ties
to ISIS or other terror groups.
"Qatar can only follow a foreign policy that is independent of outside
influence and this is something we are proud of," Qatari Foreign
Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiya said during a Princeton
University speech last month. "Often times, heavy criticism is the price
that must be paid for taking a firm position on your beliefs."
The Obama administration has used Qatar as a diplomatic partner since
2010, when the Arab Spring revolutions started. The White House uses the
country to communicate with militant groups and credits the ally with
securing the release of Army officer Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May.
Secretary of State John Kerry also used Attiya to negotiate a cease-fire
agreement with Hamas in hopes of ending the Israeli-Palestinian war.
Kerry and other State Department officials, though, say Qatar and Turkey
are the only Middle East nations with enough leverage to pressure
"American diplomacy has seen utility in having an ally who brokers with
the bad guys when necessary," said Juan Zarate, a senior White House and
Treasury official from former President