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Politics: The Reason Why Qatar Must Be Reigned In

POLITICS: The reason why Qatar must be reigned in

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On a global map, Qatar is barely visible.

It’s a tiny speck along the Arabian Gulf, barely the size of Connecticut — and with just over 300,000 citizens, serviced by more than two million resident aliens. 

But on a global scale of influential countries, Qatar punches far above its weight.

Home to more than ten percent of the world’s proved natural gas reserves, it ranks, per capita, among the top five wealthiest countries.

And its available assets today are estimated as high as one trillion dollars.

Sen. Bob Menendez now faces multiple charges relating to bribery allegations connected to shady Qatari funding. AP

That staggering wealth helps fund a twofold agenda. 

First, Qatar seeks to position itself as an indispensable nation that has ties with all the players in the region, and can be viewed as an honest broker, a friend to everyone, and a key strategic partner. 

The United States doesn’t deal directly with Iran, but Qatar does, so freeing American hostages involves Doha.

Nor does Israel deal directly with Hamas, but Doha does, so freeing Israeli hostages involves Doha.

It sounds helpful enough, except that Qatar isn’t just a well-intentioned third party trying to help solve other nations’ problems.

It has ideological aims, above all to promote the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is an extremist movement founded a century ago in Egypt, which seeks to penetrate both Muslim and Western societies, with the explicit goal of gaining influence, if not, eventually, outright domination to establish an Islamist order.

Qatar is way too savvy to admit the connection outright.

Instead, drawing on its vast resources, it cleverly seeks to burnish its image by hosting the soccer World Cup in 2022, buying iconic sports teams in the West, building a global airline and the tourism associated with it, spreading the professional look of Al Jazeera on television screens, and getting involved in higher education.

Qatar is a small speck along the Arabian Gulf, barely the size of Connecticut. DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

And it hires a legion of top-tier lobbyists, lawyers and public relations experts in Washington and other capitals to promote the Qatar brand, make inroads in decision-making circles, and scare off anyone who might question underlying motives.

Two recent stories reveal the nature of Qatar’s modus operandi. 

In late 2022, Qatar was caught red-handed seeking to bribe several European Parliament members, including a vice president.

And earlier this year, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey was accused of accepting bribes from Qatar, a charge he rejects, but which also ought to trigger a larger investigation of just how aggressive Doha has been in Washington. 

Sophisticated aviation equipment at an American Air Force base in Qatar. Sygma via Getty Images

And in February, the Texas A&M Board of Regents, by a vote of seven to one, decided to close its campus in Qatar.

This followed revelations by the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) of a secret contract with Qatar, involving hundreds of joint research projects, including some with potential national security implications for the U.S.; a provision that Qatar holds all the intellectual property rights from the joint research; and extensive personal data about students at the Doha campus made available to Qatari authorities.

Five other American universities — Carnegie-Mellon,  Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern and Virginia Commonwealth — operate campuses in Doha. ISGAP research is exploring the details of those arrangements.

Moreover, Qatar has been the principal overseas funder of American universities, going well beyond the six on the ground in the Middle Eastern nation.

Why?

To gain access to more intellectual property?

To advance Muslim Brotherhood ideology on campus?

To shape how young, impressionable students view the Middle East?

To win over faculty members as allies in the classroom, professional associations and scholarly publications?

To spread, directly snd indirectly, virulent antisemitism?

Regrettably, the Biden administration has so far chosen to downplay the dangers.

Because some U.S. troops are based in Qatar, and since Washington looks to it for help with bad actors like Iran and Hamas, Doha’s duplicitous double game, influence-peddling, and guiding Muslim Brotherhood inspiration are largely given short shrift.

Actually, it gets worse. In 2022, the Biden administration gave Qatar the status of “major non-NATO ally.”

A shot of the Texas A&M campus in Qatar, which will shut down. AP

It’s high time to change the approach to Qatar. The imbalance of power and size give Washington considerable leverage.

First, Qatar should no longer be allowed to house and protect Hamas billionaire bigwigs, all the more so while those terrorists leaders oversee a genocidal war against our ally, Israel, and presumably know the whereabouts of the remaining hostages. 

Second, Washington must start enforcing existing laws about foreign donations to American universities. Any gift above $250,000 must be reported to the U.S. government.

Most, though, are not.

They need to be — and monitored for their actual, not just stated, purposes.

In 2003, Pres. Bush visited with US troops at the As-Sayliyah air force base. AFP via Getty Images

Third, whether American troops remain in Qatar, or moved more securely elsewhere in the region, should be an open question,

And fourth, it’s time to demand registration of Al Jazeera as a foreign agent of the Qatari government, and not allow it to continue masquerading as an independent news organization.

Qatar is running dangerous, dizzying circles around us, which does damage to U.S. national interests.

A clear American message to Qatar, backed by unmistakable resolve, is needed. Now. 

David Harris is vice chair of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). 

Charles Asher Small is the founder of ISGAP and its executive director.



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