August 14, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10753

Assessing The U.S.-Qatar Relationship – The Committee On Foreign Affairs, House Of Representatives, July 26, 2017

August 14, 2023
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 10753

Much of the July 26, 2017 hearing before the Subcommittee on the Middle East And North Africa of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was devoted to Qatar's role in harboring terrorists and financing terrorism during the previous regime, during which Hamad bin Jassim served as Qatari foreign minister and prime minister (1992-2013).

Under the heading "Assessing the U.S.-Qatar Relationship," the hearing focused on Qatar's material aid to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, named in the 9/11 Commission Report as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," and Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Taliban, Libyan Islamists, and Hamas.

The following are excerpts of the transcript of the hearing pertaining to this matter. The transcript in full may be read here.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida, Chairman: "Today, We Focus On The U.S.-Qatar Relationship And Qatar’s Relationship With Its Neighbors"

Chairman Ros-Lehtinen opened the hearing with comments about the Qatari government during the time bin Jassim served as Qatari foreign minister and prime minister. She stated:

"At least one high-ranking Qatari official provided support to the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks against our country, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Then, of course, there is Khalifa Mohammed, who is a U.S.-, EU-, and U.N.-designated international terrorist for his role in financing al-Qaeda and the 9/11 mastermind. In 2008, he was tried and convicted in absentia by Bahrain 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. Can anyone guess what Khalifa Mohammed has been up to these days? He was implicated in terror financing activities in 2012, but more recently, he has been alleged to be financing and supporting terror in both Iraq and Syria with no response from the Qatari Government.

"Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal also made Doha his headquarters for years while the Qatari's – with the Qatari Government['s] support, and even the Muslim Brotherhood has received significant support from Qatar. Of course, not all of this is supported by the government in Doha. Many individuals and charities in Qatar have been known to raise large sums of money for al-Qaeda, the Nusra front, Hamas, and even ISIS. In Qatar, there are three buckets: Terror financing by the government; terror financing done in Qatar through their own citizens that their government may not know about; and terror financing in Qatar that the government knows about but does nothing to stop."

Congressman (D-Florida) Ted Deutch:

 "...Unfortunately, this includes terror groups like Hamas and the Afghan Taliban. Qatar has served as a financial and political lifeline for Hamas' devastating rule in Gaza since the terror group took over more than a decade ago. Qatar has sent hundreds of millions of dollars into the Gaza strip, provides safe haven in Doha for Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, and helped legitimize Hamas rule in 2012 when the Emir became the first international leader to visit Hamas-led territory. Qatar has also supported other dangerous groups in the region, including sending advanced weaponry and financing to extremist elements in Syria and Libya, and Al Jazeera has given voice to clerics calling for suicide attacks against Americans and Israelis."

Expert Witnesses

The expert witnesses, all of whom had served in the U.S. government, delivered oral and written testimony at the hearing. They are:

  • Jonathan Schanzer, Ph.D., senior vice president, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

  • Matthew Levitt, Ph.D., director and Fromer-Wexler fellow, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

  • Mr. Ilan Goldenberg, senior fellow and director, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security.

Jonathan Schanzer

"...As many of you know, FDD has been producing research and analysis on Qatar since the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011. Our critique has been consistent. We have pointed to Qatari support for Hamas, the Taliban, jihadists in Syria, jihadists in Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood. We have been critical of Qatar for the invective broadcast on state-owned Al Jazeera. We have tracked the many reports suggesting that Qatar paid ransom to terrorism groups, and we have noted through the work of my colleague, David Andrew Weinberg, that Qatar has failed to take action against U.S. and U.N.-designated terrorist financiers..."

"Support for Hamas

"Qatar is a top headquarters for Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group designated by the State Department in 1997.  Hamas operatives work out of Qatar with impunity, where they fundraise and even plan terrorist attacks. When the Syrian civil war forced Hamas leaders like Politburo chief Khaled Meshal to flee, Qatar offered him refuge, along with several other Hamas political leaders now living in Doha. This includes Hamas' spokesman, Ezzat al-Rishq."


"According to a leaked cable attributed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. government pressed the Qatari government in 2009 on 'terror finance related to Hamas.' Five years later, former Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen noted in 2014 that 'Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability."'


"Support for al-Qaeda in Syria

"...As early as 2012, al-Qaeda's Jabhat Al-Nusra commanders met with senior Qatari military officials and financiers in Doha. ln 2013, certain Qatari weapons shipments to militant groups were winding up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra. It was for this reason that the Obama administration requested that Qatar halt the export of heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles to Syrian militants."


"Impunity for Designated al-Qaeda Financiers in Qatar

"...The U.S. Treasury designated Hamid Abdullah al-Ali in 2006 for financially supporting Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was added to the UN's al-Qaeda sanctions list as well in 2008, and would have been added sooner but Qatar blocked his designation while it was a member of the Security Council. In 2012, the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs invited him to deliver a Friday sermon at Doha's Qatar Grand Mosque, in which he extoled the jihad in Syria."


"According to the State Department's country reports on terrorism released last week, Qatar never prosecuted and convicted terror financiers before 2015."


"Support For The Taliban

"In December 2009, the State Department listed Qatari cooperation on terrorism finance among 'the worst in the region, 'noting that, 'the Taliban ... and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale.' In 2010, members of the Taliban reportedly began to arrive in Qatar to establish an official presence."

"Support For Libyan Islamists

"...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.'"


"According to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of the Baker Institute for Public Policy, 'Qatar developed close links with key lslamist militia commanders [in Libya] such as Abdelhakim Belhadj, once the head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and, in 2011, the commander of the Tripoli Brigade.' According to Arab officials, Belhadj was the Libyan apostle of Osama bin Laden who maintained close and continuing ties to Qatars Belhadj launched Hizb al-Watan in 2012,  which Arab officials believed have maintained close ties to LIFG and received continued support from Qatar."

"The Muslim Brotherhood

"... The Muslim Brotherhood's presence in Qatar dates back to 1974, when students studying in countries like Kuwait and Egypt returned and wanted to form their own chapter of the organization. Since then, Qatar has hosted the movement's leaders and supported its regional activities, particularly since the eruption of the Arab Spring."


"During the Iraq War, Al-Jazeera received criticism for airing videos by al-Qaeda's leadership, who called for violence against the U.S. and its allies. It promoted the lslamist ideology of groups like al-Qaeda by describing suicide bombings as 'paradise operations' and terrorist activities as acts of 'resistance.' ln April 2013, Iraq suspended the licenses of Al-Jazeera due to accusations of incitement. At that point, more than 170 people had been killed due to sectarian fighting, which the Communication and Media Commission attributed in part to Al-Jazeera's reporting. The regulatory group argued that the sectarian language used in their reporting created 'criminal acts of revenge by attacking the security forces.' These, of course, are just a few representative examples of the controversial material aired on Al-Jazeera."

Yousuf Al-Qaradawi

"Al-Jazeera has often featured Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who called the Holocaust 'divine punishment,' and has advocated on air for killing Jews."[1]

Matthew Levitt

"...Qatar has been a long-time ally of the United States and hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. But the U.S. has also long criticized the Qatari Government for its lax counterterrorism policies; in particular, shortcomings regarding efforts to combat terror financing."


"Doha has been particularly sketchy on the issue of the prosecution of terrorism financiers in Qatari courts. According to the State Department's 2015 country reports, Doha had made efforts to prosecute significant terrorist financiers. As of 2016, Qatar had prosecuted five terrorist financiers: Ibrahim al-Bakr, Saad al-Kaabi, Abd al-Latif al Kawari, Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaymi, and Khalifa al-Subaiey.

"It is now clear that of these, two were acquitted, one was convicted but acquitted on appeal, and one was convicted in absentia. As a result, none were in jail when the current inter-Gulf spat broke out. The ones still resident in Qatar are reportedly under surveillance. And it is worth noting that just recently, the director of the Qatari Government communications office said, and I quote, 'All individuals with links to terrorism [in] Qatar have been prosecuted,' which would mean that the total number of suspects is five, which is not the case.

"Let me give you just a couple of examples of this odd history. This would have been the second time that Ibrahim al-Bakr was convicted following his 2000 arrest, in which he was subsequently released from prison after he promised not to do terrorist activity in Qatar. Or consider Khalifa al-Subaiey, who was originally arrested in January 2008 in Bahrain for financing terrorism, undergoing terrorist training, facilitating the travel of others abroad to receive terrorist training and more. He was arrested again in March 2008 by Qatar and served a 6-month term in prison. He was supposedly under surveillance after he was released. But in 2015, the U.N. Committee on Al-Qaida Sanctions updated his listing with new information, which is no small matter, because it required a new vote of the full U.N. Security Council, and reported that al-Subaiey had resumed terrorist activity."

"According to the committee, 'after his release, al-Subaiey reconnected with al-Qaeda financiers and facilitators in the Middle East and resumed organizing funds and support of al-Qaeda.'


"Qatar has a history of past counterterrorism and counterterrorism-related laws in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014. They were either not implemented, or not implemented in full, and so, therefore, this time, we have to make sure that these are done and done effectively.


"In another case. the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 'Abd al-Malik  'Abd al-Salam (aka Umar al-Qatari), a Jordanian with Qatari residence. In 2011 and 2012, he worked with associates in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, and Iran to raise and move funds, weapons, and facilitate travel for fighters. For example, in 2012, Umar al-Qatari gave thousands of dollars and material support to an al-Qaeda associate in Syria, intended to assist ANF operatives. That same year, he also assisted with ANF recruitment in Turkey. He has used online sites to raise funds for al-Qaida and in 2011 he was part of an attack against U.S. forces in Afghanistan."


"The three other individuals that Qatar prosecuted include Bakr, Kawari, and Subaiey. Bakr and Kawari were convicted in 2016 and Subaiey was convicted in 2008. This was the second time that Bakr was convicted, following his 2000 arrest in which he was subsequently ' released from prison after he promised not to conduct terrorist activity in Qatar.' In his latest conviction, he was convicted in absentia and remains at large outside of Qatar. According to  the 2008 Treasury designation, in  2006, Bakr assisted a terrorist cell that was plotting attacks against U.S. military bases in Qatar. Additionally, beginning in 2012, Bakr worked for al-Qaeda, serving as the link between Gulf-based al-Qaeda financiers and Afghanistan."


"According to the Committee, 'after his release, Al-Subaiey reconnected with Al-Qaida financiers and facilitators in the Middle East and resumed organizing funds in support of Al-Qaida. His involvement with Iran based facilitators continued in 2009,2011 and throughout 2012 with money flowing to Al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.' If he is in fact under Qatari surveillance, the Qatari authorities  do not appear to be very vigilant."


"Qatari Counterterrorism Legislation and Agreements

"...Despite the 2004 legislative efforts, there was little follow through after the laws were implemented. According to the 2008 International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Country Reports on Qatar, one of the six factors that contributed to the failure of the FIU included its failure to "regularly review its own effectiveness in combating terrorist financing and money laundering.' Additionally, the administrative order creating the FIU was inconsistent with Qatar's anti -money laundering law."

"Another law, passed in 2006, expanded charitable oversight and gave additional authorities to the Ministry of Civil Service and Housing Affairs ' This was a step in the right direction, however, when a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mutual evaluation team came to inspect Qatar's anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance (AML/CFT) regime two years later, it found significant problems. The IMF reported that Qatar criminalized terrorist financing 'but in a very limited way.'

"The IMF assessed Qatar's system requiring the disclosure of currency transported across the border as 'neither implemented nor effective.' And despite having authority to confiscate, freeze or seize funds  tied to money laundering or terror finance, not a single confiscation had been ordered because not a single money laundering charge had been brought before the courts. To the contrary: The IMF reported that it appeared that 'on one occasion. The [Qatari] authorities offered safe harbor to a person designated under [ United Nations terrorism designation list] UNSCR 1267.  No actions were taken with respect to this person's funds or other assets.'

"In a surreal encounter in 2009. I experienced firsthand Qatar's penchant for passing legislation and considering the matter closed without any implementation or enforcement. In a meeting with Qatari officials in Doha, I asked how the Qatari FIU assessed the compliance of local Hawalas (informal money transfer businesses common in the region) with a then-new law requiring Hawalas to register with the government or shut down. The official explained – with a straight face – that there appeared to be no Hawalas operating in the country since none had registered with  the authorities as required under the new law.

"In fact, the official had an identical conversation with IMF assessors just a few weeks earlier. Highly skeptical that not a single Hawala operated in the country, IMF experts returned to their hotels and asked expatriate foreign workers how they sent money back to their families in their home countries. Their answers were hardly surprising: 'Hawalas.' The IMF team returned to the official with a long list of Hawalas operating openly in Qatar,  required the government submit an  updated section of its report on this issue to the IMF, and stressed the need to actually implement and enforce new laws."


"Qatar passed the Combatting Money Laundering Terrorist Finance Law, which specifically required prosecutors to freeze funds  of UN-designated terrorist organizations. The  law outlined penalties for terrorist financing and money laundering. including penalties and fines. Despite this positive step toward AML/CTF and transparency, the law left the terms, conditions, and time limits of the freezing of funds up to the Public Prosecutor's discretion.  In practice, this law was not fully implemented in a timely manner. According to the State Department's 2012 Country Reports on Terrorism, 'the government has begun to distribute lists of UN-designated terrorist entities and individuals to financial  institutions. Implementation, however, remained inconsistent."'

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