Wednesday, February 25, 2015
SICK.... SICK... SICK... Obama lauds Qatari sponsor of terror while pillorying democratic Israel our ally in fight against terror
The pair also agreed that Syria can only be stabilised after Bashar Al Assad steps down. “How we get there, obviously, is a source of extraordinary challenge and we shared ideas on how that can be accomplished,” Mr Obama said.
The talks come as deep concerns persist over Qatar’s relationship with extremist groups across the region.
Qatari officials say the ties are part of a strategy to be indispensable to all sides in the region, while observers say that it is also to project influence through these groups after they gained more power following the Arab Spring.
Doha’s relationship with groups like Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Al Nusra Front, the Afghan Taliban, and Hamas have all proved key for negotiations over hostage releases and other backchannel contacts, such as during the war in Gaza last year.
But these relationships have also caused deep concern in Washington that Qatari policies are undermining US counter-terrorism efforts, especially with the fight against ISIL extremists a central US concern.
In particular, Doha has come under intense pressure over its lax enforcement of laws intended to cut off private funding for extremists. Last fall, the US Treasury Department announced that an unnamed Qatari businessman had given $2 million to an ISIL leader, and that virtually no prosecutions had taken place for violations of financial counter-terrorism laws.
US and Arab officials have been reported as saying that Qatar has done more recently to stem money flowing to extremist groups, particularly in Syria.
“I know Qatar, especially the central bank, has been addressing that and I think that the emir will reassure the president about Qatar’s commitment to strengthening these financial controls in order to make sure Qatari-sourced money does not reach ISIL,” said Joseph LeBaron, the US ambassador to Qatar from 2008-2011, who is now a Middle East business adviser at Squire Patton Boggs, a law firm with offices in Doha that advises clients on Qatari law.
But the topic was likely discussed by the two leaders, along with the positive role Doha can play in countering ISIL propaganda through Al Jazeera Arabic.
“I expect that addressing terrorist financing and countering extremist propaganda through prominent media outlets in the region will be topics as these have been issues of concern with Qatar for the past few years,” said Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank.
Despite these enduring concerns, the administration appears committed to maintaining the strategic benefits of the relationship with Qatar.
“Despite all the differences between the two countries, we’ve seen over and over again that their strategic security relationship trumps in importance the differences,” said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow in Gulf politics at the Washington Institute.
Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its refusal to cut ties with the group led to an unprecedented diplomatic spat with fellow GCC members Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Those strains have been at least publicly mended, with shared concerns over the threat posed by ISIL in Syria and Iraq and Iran’s regional policies helping the countries present a united front.
But deep differences remain over extremist groups, particularly in Libya, where the recent rise of ISIL and the murder of 21 Coptic Egyptian migrant labourers has publicly pitted Egypt and its Gulf allies against Qatar over how to respond.