(CNSNews.com) – The emir of Qatar said at a U.S. Treasury Department dinner attended by President Trump on Monday night that his country and the United States “are working together to eradicate terrorism and its financing, wherever it may take root.”
The comments by Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, a day before he meets with Trump at the White House, come despite deep concerns in the U.S. and the Gulf region about Qatar’s support for terrorist and radical groups, and for the Iranian regime.
Two years ago those stances triggered a still-unresolved rift between Qatar and a quartet of Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt. They imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions against the small, oil-rich sheikhdom over its stance on Iran, and its close links to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch, Hamas.
Al-Thani hosted Hamas leaders at his Al Bahr palace as recently as last month.
According to a dispatch from the official Qatar News Agency, the Hamas representatives “expressed their deep thanks and appreciation to the Emir for Qatar’s continued support to the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. For his part, the Emir stressed on Qatar’s firm position in supporting Palestinians and their just cause.”
Hamas has been a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) since 1997. The group, which ousted rival Palestinian faction Fatah and violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and rocket attacks since the interim Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993. At least 15 Americans were killed between 1993 and 2002 in attacks claimed by Hamas.
Unlike Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood is not an FTO, although the White House said in April it was looking into the possibility of designating it as such.
In his comments at the Treasury Department, al-Thani alluded to the disputes in the Gulf region, though without naming countries involved.
After highlighting a “strong economic partnership” between Qatar and the U.S., he said, “unfortunately, there are some in my region who do not share our beliefs. In today’s world, at times, alliances have to be made with necessary partners, and certain allies are not actually friends.”
“But with the United States and Qatar, we are partners, allies and friends,” he added.
“Qatar and the U.S. are working together to eradicate terrorism and its financing, wherever it may take root, to ensure a more peaceful and secure world.”
The rest of al-Thani’s remarks focused mostly on strong economic ties, as did Trump’s comments. The president spoke warmly of the emir, calling him “a great ally” and “my great friend.”
Trump has spoken out publicly against Qatar’s behavior in the past. Two years ago, speaking at the White House shortly after participating in a U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh, he said, “the nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
Trump at the time recalled that concerns about Qatar had been raised at the summit in the Saudi capital, and said he had decided, along with advisors, that “the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
He added that the U.S. wants to see Qatar “back among the unity of responsible nations.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s White House meeting, conservative and other voices have been calling on the president to raise concerns about Qatar’s troubling behavior.
In a letter to Trump, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Ken Blackwell, Tea Party Patriots president Jenny Beth Martin, and Americans for Limited Government president Rick Manning pointed to Qatar’s funding of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
“A nation who supports these types of terrorist organizations cannot consider itself a U.S. ally and that message should be delivered firmly,” they wrote.
The four Arab countries sparring with Qatar are unhappy about its approach to both the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas and Iran, which they view as a domestic and regional threat respectively.
In an editorial last month, the UAE daily Gulf News said Qatar has had two years to show its critics that it has changed.
Instead, it charged, “Doha remains fully supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and its efforts to undermine governments across the region,” “continues to provide aid, support and assistance to those who are actively engaged in subversion” and “continues to court the regime in Tehran.”
The paper said the solution of Qatar’s regional isolation was simple: “Doha must acknowledge its indiscretions and desist from supporting, aiding and abetting terrorists and extremists.”
Trump Urged to Confront Qatar’s Emir Over Troubling Behavior (Jul. 9, 2019)