Ques­tions raised about defin­ing terrorism

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Adiplo­matic stand­off be­tween Qatar and four other Arab na­tions that ac­cuse it of spon­sor­ing terrorism has turned a spot­light on an opaque net­work of char­i­ties and prom­i­nent fig­ures freely oper­at­ing in the tiny Gulf coun­try. It also raises ques­tions about what con­sti­tutes a “ter­ror­ist” in the Mid­dle East. Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Egypt and Bahrain have re­leased a list of two dozen groups and nearly 60 in­di­vid­u­als that they al­lege have been in­volved in fi­nanc­ing terrorism and are linked to Qatar.

Qatar in­sists it con­demns terrorism and that it does not sup­port ex­trem­ist groups. The cri­sis be­gan last month when the four Arab coun­tries cut ties to Qatar. They de­manded it end the al­leged sup­port of terrorism, and also that it cut its re­la­tions with Shi­ite power Iran and stop med­dling in their af­fairs through sup­port of Is­lamist op­po­si­tion groups. The en­ergy rich na­tion is an im­por­tant US ally in a volatile re­gion. It hosts about 10,000 US troops at an air base used to launch coali­tion airstrikes against Is­lamic State fight­ers in Syria and Iraq.

The list of the groups and in­di­vid­u­als re­leased by Qatar’s neigh­bors re­flects long­stand­ing con­cerns raised by US of­fi­cials. At the same time, it also in­cludes po­lit­i­cal dis­senters and op­po­si­tion voices. “The al­le­ga­tion that Qatar sup­ports terrorism was clearly de­signed to gen­er­ate anti-Qatar sen­ti­ment in the West,” Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani said Wed­nes­day in a speech in Lon­don.

As he spoke, for­eign min­is­ters from the Arab quar­tet met in Cairo to re­view Qatar’s re­sponse to their de­mands. At the top of those de­mands is that Qatar end sup­port for the Mus­lim Brother­hood, which briefly held power in Egypt and whose off­shoots are ac­tive across the Mid­dle East. Though Qatar has cracked down on dis­sent at home, it views the Brother­hood as a le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal force. This has put it at odds with Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Egypt, which have branded the Brother­hood a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and see it as a threat to po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity.

In his speech, Sheikh Mo­hammed said there is a dan­ger in “la­bel­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents as ter­ror­ists merely to si­lence them”. “Our neigh­bors see change - those ad­vo­cat­ing for it and those re­port­ing on it - as a threat, and they are quick to la­bel any­one who op­poses their gov­ern­ments as a ‘ter­ror­ist,’” he said. The Brother­hood’s spir­i­tual guide, Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, was among those ac­cused by Qatar’s neigh­bors of hav­ing ties with terrorism. The 90year-old Egyp­tian cleric, who has lived in Qatar for decades, pre­vi­ously was em­braced by Gulf lead­ers and was seen along­side Saudi Ara­bia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ab­de­laziz Al-Sheikh, and the UAE’s rulers.

In 2013, he joined a cho­rus of preach­ers in the Gulf urg­ing young men to de­fend Sunni Mus­lims in Syria, calls that co­in­cided with of­fi­cial back­ing of rebels fight­ing to oust Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad. Qaradawi dif­fered from other Gulf preach­ers in that he strongly crit­i­cized Egypt’s gov­ern­ment when it ousted the Brother­hood from power. He also was crit­i­cal of Gulf coun­tries that backed the lethal crack­down.


Qatar’s sup­port of the Brother­hood has made it an out­lier, as has its unique role as a me­di­a­tor in hostage ne­go­ti­a­tions, help­ing to free Western cap­tives held by Al-Qaeda in Syria and Ye­men. Christo­pher Mel­lon, a re­searcher with the New Amer­ica Foun­da­tion who co-au­thored a re­port about ran­som pay­ments, said th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions have often in­volved pay­ing ex­trem­ist groups. He said Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have sim­i­larly gone to extreme lengths to keep th­ese trans­ac­tions pri­vate. “They’re very de­lib­er­ately non­trans­par­ent. They don’t want any­one to know that they’ve paid,” he said.

Re­ports emerged ear­lier this year that Qatar paid hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to re­lease mem­bers of its rul­ing fam­ily who were kid­napped in Iraq. Al­le­ga­tions were raised that the com­plex deal in­cluded Qatari pay­ments to an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria, as well as to an Ira­ni­an­backed mili­tia in Iraq. Qatar said re­ports of ran­som pay­ments to th­ese groups are false and that it provided Iraq’s gov­ern­ment with fi­nan­cial aid to sup­port the re­lease of the Qataris.

The Arab quar­tet’s list names a num­ber of Qatari na­tion­als, in­clud­ing Khal­ifa Al-Subaie, Saad bin Saad Al-Kabi, Ab­del­rah­man Al-Nuaymi, Ab­del-Latif Al-Kuwari and Ibrahim Al-Bakr. All have been sanc­tioned by the US Trea­sury De­part­ment as ma­te­rial sup­port­ers of Al-Qaeda. Four of the five ap­pear to be liv­ing in Qatar - their as­sets are frozen, they are un­der sur­veil­lance and are barred from trav­el­ing abroad - but they are not im­pris­oned.

The US Trea­sury said in the case of Bakr, he was de­tained in Qatar in the early 2000s for his role in a ji­hadist net­work but that he was re­leased from prison af­ter promis­ing not to con­duct ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity in Qatar. Trea­sury al­leged that in 2006, he played a key role in a ter­ror­ist cell plot­ting to at­tack US mil­i­tary bases in Qatar, and as of mid2012 was serv­ing as a link be­tween Gulf-based Al-Qaeda fi­nanciers and Afghanistan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.