Arab States Accuse Qatar, a US Ally, of Supporting Terrorism

By Patrick Goodenough | June 5, 2017 | 4:55am EDT
The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, at the U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh last month. (Photo: Saudi Press Agency)

( – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in a concerted move on Monday, accusing of it supporting Shi’ite and Sunni extremists causing chaos and sectarianism across the region.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists and the Muslim Brotherhood, backing Shi’ite Houthi militia in Yemen, and financing anti-government terrorism in Bahrain.

In a statement released through the official SPA news agency, the kingdom also accused Qatari authorities of sowing divisions in Saudi Arabia in a bid to incite anti-state resistance and undermine its sovereignty.

Bahrain meanwhile accused Qatar of “financing armed groups associated with Iran to carry out subversive attacks and spread chaos” in Bahrain, among other things.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said they were closing their airspace, ports and territorial waters to traffic from Qatar, and would not allow their citizens to visit Qatar or Qataris to visit their countries. They also directed their criticism at Qatari media outlets

Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led military coalition battling against the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in support of ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The deepening diplomatic row could prove awkward for the United States, which has close ties with all the countries involved – and has the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command located at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base.

President Trump met with Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on the sidelines of last month’s U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit hosted by the Saudis in Riyadh.

The previous month, Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Doha to discuss “deepening the U.S.-Qatari strategic partnership” and the campaign to defeat ISIS, the Pentagon reported at the time.

Iran and its regional destabilization was a major theme at the summit attended by Trump in Riyadh.

Long-simmering tensions between Qatar and its neighbors came to the boil shortly after the high-level gathering, when Qatari media quoted the emir, al-Thani, as giving a speech in which he voiced support for Iran, and criticized the Saudi-led effort to isolate Tehran.

Qatar then denied the veracity of the report, alleging that its official news agency had been targeted by hackers.

In Monday’s fast-moving developments, the United Arab Emirates issued a statement through its official WAM news agency saying it was taking the same steps as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, in support of its two “sisterly” allies.

It cited in particular “Qatar’s continued support, funding and hosting of terror groups,” citing the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is standing at left in this photo with President Trump, Saudi King Salman and other leaders and the U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh last month. (Photo: Saudi Press Agency)

The Emirati news agency also accused Qatar of violating a statement issued at the May 21 U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit “on countering terrorism in the region and considering Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Egypt’s foreign ministry said it was taking the same steps against Qatar as the Gulf states, “to protect its national security.”

“Qatar’s policy threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation,” it said.

Egypt’s statement also accused Qatar of supporting terrorist organizations, naming the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.

In mid-2013 the Egyptian military, then led by the Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi. Sisi, now president, then outlawed the organization.

Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has caused problems in the past with its Arab Gulf neighbors, which view the Muslim Brotherhood as a security threat to their regimes. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in a dispute over the Brotherhood.

In a speech that year, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official voiced concern about Qatar’s stance on extremist groups fighting in Syria, as well as the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

The department’s then undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, said fundraisers in Qatar were collecting donations for extremists in Syria, including ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, a situation which he said “threatens to aggravate an already volatile situation.”

Cohen also said that Qatar “has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability.”

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