US Congress examines contradictions in Qatari policies

Fri, 2017-07-28 00:39

WASHINGTON: Qatari foreign policy was the subject of a hearing held by the US Congressional House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Wednesday.
The hearing allowed Republican and Democratic subcommittee members to express their views and concerns about US relations with Qatar.
Three expert witnesses provided detailed analyzes of the origins of the current crisis and how best to resolve it. Most of those who spoke expressed deep concerns about contradictions in Qatari policies.
Opening the session, the chairwoman of the subcommittee, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, reminded those in the chamber that the “rift in the Gulf is not new.”
She cited Kathrine Bauer, a former US Treasury Department official who recently told an audience at a think tank in Washington: “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sought for years to kind of galvanize Qatar’s actions against terrorist financiers that were operating and continue to operate in Qatar.”
Ros-Lehtinen said: “Qatar has been known to be a permissive environment for terror financing, reportedly funding US-designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas, as well as several extremist groups operating in Syria.”
Democrat Theodore Deutch described the crisis as a “dispute over longstanding grievances over Qatar’s support, financially and through its state-owned Al Jazeera news station, for actors and groups that Qatar’s neighbors, and in many cases the United States, see as deeply problematic.”
In written testimony to the subcommittee, Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote: “Qatar has been an obvious area of interest in light of its incredibly brazen and open support for terrorist groups designated by the United States. This support for terrorist groups is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid air base, the launch point for thousands of strikes carried out by the US in the war on terroris.” Schanzer described this contradiction as “insane.”
Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow and director at the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, expressed concern that “in recent years, Qatar has housed leaders from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban, and has also provided a platform for extremist leaders to spread their ideology through shows on Al Jazeera.”
Ilan Goldenberg, senior fellow and director at the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said: “It is clear that the intra-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) split that has emerged in recent weeks has not been good for American interests.” He added: “This split has provided opportunities for Russia and Iran.”

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