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June 10, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8790

Saudi Journalists Ahead Of Third Anniversary Of Qatar Boycott: Qatar Has Ties To Terrorist Organizations, Boycott Is Justified

June 10, 2020
Qatar, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 8790

Ahead of the third anniversary of the boycott imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain,[1] and in light of reports that the U.S. has renewed its efforts to mediate a reconciliation between the sides,[2]Saudi journalists have written that the boycott is justified and should remain in place. These writers, including senior journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed and journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Turiri, stressed that the main reason for the boycott is Qatar's  support of multiple terror organizations – such as Al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan – some of which target the Gulf states themselves. Qatar, they said, finances these organizations and shelters their leaders. Al-Turiri also stated that, in the 2000s, Qatar's Al-Jazeera network served as a "mouthpiece" for Al-Qaeda, broadcasting videos of the organization’s top leaders, and that recently it has been doing the same for the Nusra Front. He stated further that Qatar uses its ties with terrorist organizations to position itself as a mediator between these organizations and the West, a role that earns it prestige and influence in the West and enables it to maintain its ties with the organizations without fear of sanctions.

Al-Turiri directed criticism also at Turkey, noting that it has close ties with Qatar and claiming that it too maintains links with terrorist organizations to further its interests, albeit less openly and directly than Qatar. Both writers noted that Qatar's support of terror and its efforts to destabilize its neighbors has been ongoing for years, and therefore any attempt to mediate a reconciliation between the sides is pointless.

The following are translated excerpts from Al-Rashed's and Al-Turiri's articles:


"Qatar's funding" of terror brings death to "the Middle East" (Al-Arab, London, February 20, 2020)

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: Qatar Will Never Stop Supporting Terror And Trying To Undermine Its Neighbors; The Boycott Must Continue

Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed wrote on June 6, 2020 in the London-based daily  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "The Qatari government used every means at its disposal to try to tempt the Iranian regime to release an American prisoner [in return for] America’s release of an Iranian prisoner and to open up a channel of communication between Washington and Tehran.[3] [Qatar did this because it] wants to help Iran out of its crisis. It also provided hundreds of Taliban [operatives] and their children with regular salaries and other services, to persuade this movement [to sign] an agreement with the Americans on Afghanistan.

"Why? Because Doha is trying to draw close to the U.S. administration and is trying to persuade it to broker, for the third time, a renewal of its relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. [But] the truth is that these countries understand that rapprochement with Qatar will not last long and that the disputes with it will resurface, and therefore prefer not to restore the relations.

"Doha keeps repeatedly pelting Washington with its claims: that the boycott is hurting it, [and] that it is weakening the front vis-à-vis Iran [because] the closure of Saudi airspace [to Qatari planes] forces Qatar to use Iran's airspace [instead]. Nobody in the world complains louder than Qatar and with less credibility. The talk that it is suffering as a result of the boycott is completely divorced from reality. Its population is two million, but its airport saw 38 million passengers last year. [For comparison,] Egypt's population is 90 million, and its airport saw [only] 10 million people [last year]. So where is the boycott and the suffering?! The boycott is limited to just four countries, while the rest of the world is not party to it.

"Qatar has been wanting to end [the boycott] for three years, [but] for purely political reasons, not economic ones. The four countries boycotted it out of opposition to its actions, not only because of its policy. For a quarter of a century, Qatar has never stopped financing governments and individuals that oppose [Saudi Arabia] and seek to harm it, both inside and outside the country, and it is almost the sole financer [of these elements] to this very day. Riyad tried [to change this using] every measure of reconciliation and cooperation. [In 2014] it suspended its relations with Qatar  to signal [its anger], but renewed them after Qatar signed a commitment to stop [its actions], which it never fulfilled. Why not? Because [the essence of] its policy is harming these governments and supporting the efforts to destabilize them…

"Qatar is still helping to finance [efforts to] target Saudi Arabia's borders and cities by supporting the insurgents in Yemen. It also financed the Saudi extremists who fled to Iraq and Syria to join Al-Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra. In addition, it finances organizations like the [Muslim] Brotherhood, a fascist Islamic movement currently based in Turkey; [supports] oppositionists in the West, and finances hostile campaigns in several countries. The damage is also suffered by Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, and that is why all of them decided to sever their relations with Doha.  

"Some may say that ending the rift will prompt Qatar to end campaign [against the boycotting countries]. But even if we achieve reconciliation for now, Qatar will not end its hostile action that has been going on since the 1990s, [action] that did not [really] stop even in the years in which Qatar pretended to be a friend and a sister. Qatar will lie to the Americans that it is willing to turn over a new leaf, just as it fooled Kuwait, which tried to mediate [between Qatar and the boycotting countries]. The only measure Qatar took in the recent period [to promote a reconciliation with the boycotting countries involved] groups hostile to these four countries whom it had been  hosting in Doha. It moved most of these groups to Istanbul [after] securing a budget for their continued activity, and then declared that they had left Doha!

"The sad truth is that the Qatari regime is a chronic and incurable disease, and therefore a boycott is the least harmful [option]."[4]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Turiri: Qatar Has A Long History Of Media, Political And Economic Relations With Terrorist Organizations

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Turiri wrote in the English-language London-based paper Arab Weekly:[5] "…Somalia has been consumed since the early 1990s by civil wars caused by tribal ambitions. The absence of a strong central authority led to the emergence of piracy off the Somalian coast at the beginning of the current century.

"Among the many extremist movements that had emerged in Somalia is the al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab Movement. The movement quickly developed close ties with Doha since 2004; and it was no coincidence that 2004 was the same year Qatar weaved its web of ties with the Houthis in Yemen. Houthi elements were granted Qatari passports which gave them freedom of movement.

"Any organization that has relations with the Qatari regime automatically has relations with the Turkish regime. This is very evident today in the case of Libya, where both regimes support the so-called National Accord Government which is misleadingly called the 'recognized government,' while in fact it has yet to be recognized by the Libyan Parliament to acquire any legitimacy, as required by the Skhirat Agreement.

"Of the two rogue regimes, the one in Turkey was less daring [in] openly and directly maintain[ing] ties to terrorist organizations, perhaps because of Turkey's membership in NATO. This did not, however, prevent the Turkish regime from setting its eyes on the Gulf region, motivated perhaps by the new Sultan's daydream of resurrecting the Ottoman Empire, especially after his dream of being accepted by the European Union was shattered, followed by the quick shipwreck of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ambitions in Egypt on the rock of the Saudi-Emirati alliance.

"The new Turkish Sultan was relentless in his Gulf dream. First, he leased the Sudanese island of Suakin to build a military base there, then he signed a military agreement with the Qatari regime, which turned the Turkish army into a royal guard at Al-Wajbah Palace in Doha, most likely to keep a cautious eye on the Emir there[6].

"His latest achievement, however, was in Somalia, where he built in Mogadishu the biggest Turkish military base outside of Turkey. The base was inaugurated in 2017 and many projects were undertaken to market Turkey in Somalia. Not to be ungrateful towards the Sultan, and the Somali government closed all of the schools in Somalia associated with Turkish guru and Erdogan's archenemy Fethullah Gulen.


Qatar's "support of extremist movements" is drowning it (Al-Arab, London, May 23, 2020)

"Wanting to expand its influence in Somalia and restrict the influence of any alternative Gulf country there, Doha was very generous in assisting several Somali parties, especially the al-Shabaab Movement, the al-Qaeda affiliate which claimed independence from al-Qaeda Central following bin Laden's death in 2012.

"By 2015, the movement's offensive tactics changed, which did lend credence to the theory that al-Qaeda chiefs Saif al-Adl and Abu Muhammad al-Masrihad [had] chosen to push on to Somalia after leaving Iran for Yemen, in order to flee the increasing drone attacks on known al-Qaeda leaders by the Americans.

"Last year, the New York Times published a leaked audio recording of a call between the Qatari ambassador to Somalia, Hassan bin Hamza Hashem, and the Qatari businessman Khalifa Kayedal-Muhannadi, who is close to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, in which al-Muhannadi said 'We know who carried out the attacks that targeted the Emiratis in Somalia,' and that the goal behind these attacks was to 'expel the Emirati (investments) by not renewing their contracts' and replacing them with Qatari investments.[7]

"The investment that Al-Muhannadi intended to expel from Somalia  is an investment in Bosaso Port, where the Dubai-owned P&O Ports Company had signed in April 2017 an agreement with the breakaway region of Puntland, according to which the company obtained a 30-year concession to invest in the port at a cost of $336 million.

"In retrospect now, Al-Qaeda's choice of the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera TV channel as its mouthpiece was not a coincidence, but rather the result of a strong relationship that binds the two parties, a relationship that also served some Western parties. Thanks to [this] relationship, the Qatari regime could offer services which these Western governments could not legally perform, such as paying ransom for the release of Western prisoners. And who can forget the al-Qaeda videos broadcast by Al-Jazeera, which contributed to the re-election of Bush Jr.?

"Speaking of paying ransom, it was easy to see in the case of the Syrian war that no other party enjoyed better relations with the Islamist organization Al-Nusra Front than the Qatari regime. Al-Jazeera went as far as to broadcast a whole interview with the organization's leader al-Joulani. The interview was conducted by Ahmed Mansour and the program carried the telling title, 'No Limits.'

"Doha has even brokered prisoner exchange deals between Hezbollah and the Islamic State, allowing entire busloads of ISIS elements to freely leave Lebanon heading for Idlib in Syria.[8] This is not surprising since Doha has always provided cover and financing for deals of this nature to create a balance between terrorist groups from all sects and orientations, in coordination with Turkey and Iran.

"Ronald Sandee, a Dutch analyst specializing in counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, published European intelligence information regarding a secret deal, whereby Qatar would finance the extremist organization Boko Haram in sub-Saharan Africa, provided it would  later be able to negotiate with the terrorist group [for] the release of kidnapped Western citizens. By negotiating the release of the hostages and pay[ing] their ransom on behalf of the Western governments Doha would gain popular acceptance in European official circles and public opinion. This is how the Qatari regime was able to finance terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, without being subjected to inquiries or sanctions.[9]

"Today, the same questions about Qatar's relations with al-Qaeda, and the al-Shabaab Movement in Somalia in particular, float back to the surface with the liberation of the Italian aid worker in Somalia Silvia Romano. The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Brothers of Italy party, called Carlo Fidanza, called on Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to disclose the details of the liberation of the kidnapped Romano, and of Qatar’s role and that of Turkish intelligence in the affair.[10]

"As we can see, we have here a long history of media, political and of course economic relations between Qatar and terrorist organizations. It was all part of the tiny state's quest for a greater regional role. Of course, the sly nature of the services rendered to Western capitals makes them bless this role. This in turn comforts us every day that the boycott decided by the Arab quartet against this country was the right decision in order to stabilize the region and combat terrorism”.

 

 


 

 

[1] On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain announced that they were severing their ties with Qatar, on the grounds that it supports Iran and various terror organizations and acts to destabilize various Arab states. They imposed a comprehensive diplomatic and economic boycott on it, including the severance of diplomatic relations, the closure of border crossings, and the closure  of their territory and airspace to the passage of Qatari traffic. (On the outbreak of the crisis, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1315, Uproar In The Gulf Following Alleged Statements By Qatari Emir Condemning Gulf States, Praising Iran, Hizbullah, Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas, May 25, 2017). The boycotting countries presented Qatar with a list of 13 demands that it had to fulfil as a condition for the renewal of the relations, which included breaking off its ties with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, stopping its collaboration with Turkey, closing down the Al-Jazeera TV network and discontinuing its funding of terror (Al-Ahram, Egypt,, June 24, 2017). Qatar, for its part, rejected these demands, claiming that they infringed on its sovereignty (Al-Watan, Qatar, July 25, 26, 2017;  Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egypt, November 21, 2017) and tightened its relations with Iran and Turkey in order to overcome the economic difficulties resulting from the boycott.

[2] The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the Trump administration is pressuring Saudi Arabia and the UAE to lift the boycott. The journal noted that the closure of Saudi airspace to the passage of Qatari aircraft has forced Qatar to use Iranian airspace instead, which is a source of revenue for Iran that the U.S. wishes to stem (The Wall Street Journal, U.S., June 3, 2020). 

[3] In early June 2020, Iran released Michael White, an American imprisoned in the country on charges of espionage, shortly after Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the U.S., was deported to Iran. Both countries denied that this was the result of a prisoner exchange deal. It should be noted that, to date, there is no information on any Qatari involvement in this affair. Usatoday.com, June 4, 2020.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 6, 2020.

[5] Thearabweekly.com, May 23, 2020. The text has been very slightly edited for clarity and consistence with MEMRI style.

[6] On Qatar's close ties with Turkey, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1482,

Turkey-Qatar Relations: From Bilateral Ties To A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, November 12, 2019.

[7] The reference is apparently to two attacks perpetrated last year by Al-Shabab in the Somali port city of Bosaso, whose port is managed by an Emirati company:  the February 4, 2019 assassination of the port’s manager, and a May 11, 2019 car bomb explosion in front of a courthouse in the city.

A July 11, 2019 article in The New York Times presented quotes from a phone conversation between the Qatari ambassador to Somalia and Kayedal-Muhannadi, the businessman close to the emir of Qatar, in which the latter said that the militants had carried out the bombing in Bosaso to advance Qatar's interests by driving out its rival, the UAE. "Our friends were behind the last bombings," the businessman assured the ambassador. Qatar did not dispute the authenticity of the phone conversation, but stated that Kayedal-Muhannadi had spoken as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Qatari state.

For more details on Qatar's involvement in Somalia, see MEMRI JTTM report, Media Reports In Somalia, Saudi Arabia, And UAE Following Appointment Of Former Al-Jazeera Journalist Fahad Yasin To Head Of Somalia Security Apparatus: Qatar's Man In Somalia Has Connections to Al-Qaeda Affiliate Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen, September 9, 2019.

[8] On this see Al-Nahar (Lebanon), July 27, 2017.

[9] For Ronald Sandee's report on Qatar's ties with Boko Haram, see Eeradicalization.com, September 5, 2019.

[10] It should be mentioned that Brothers of Italy party member Carlo Fidanza criticized Turkey's role in brokering Romano's release and demanded clarifications from the Italian government, but did not mention Qatari involvement in the affair. See News1.news, May 11, 2020.

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