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Qatar: Master Double-Dealer - by Con Coughlin for The Gatestone Institute - 26.10.23

The hundreds of millions of dollars the Qataris have given Hamas during the past decade have been instrumental in helping the terrorist group to develop the infrastructure that enabled it to carry out its murderous assault on Israel in the first place.


Qatar would like the world to believe that it is acting as an honest broker with its efforts to secure the release of the Gaza captives. But the reality is that it deserves to be condemned by the West as a state that sponsors global terrorism, so long as it maintains its indefensible support for Hamas.


The hundreds of millions of dollars that the Gulf state of Qatar has given Hamas during the past decade have been instrumental in helping the terrorist group to develop the infrastructure that enabled it to carry out its murderous assault on Israel in the first place.


There is a very good reason why the tiny Gulf state of Qatar finds itself so well-placed to play a central role in negotiating the release of Israeli hostages taken captive by Hamas during its barbaric assault against Israel.


The hundreds of millions of dollars the Qataris have given Hamas during the past decade have been instrumental in helping the terrorist group to develop the infrastructure that enabled it to carry out its murderous assault on Israel in the first place.


Qatar would like the world to believe that it is acting as an honest broker with its efforts to secure the release of the Gaza captives. But the reality is that it deserves to be condemned by the West as a state that sponsors global terrorism, so long as it maintains its indefensible support for Hamas.


Without the substantial financial backing Hamas has received from both Qatar and Iran, whose support for the terror group is estimated at $100 million a year, it is questionable whether Hamas would even be able to survive.


The extent of Qatar's involvement with Hamas was laid bare during the atrocities committed against Israeli civilians on October 7, when Ismail Haniyeh, the terrorist mastermind behind the attacks, was seen cheering for joy in front of the television in his exclusive hotel suite in Doha, the Qatari capital, as the horrific events unfolded.


Haniyeh, who has been designated a terrorist by the US since 2018, has been resident in Qatar since the Gulf State offered him political asylum in the emirate several years ago.


Apart from enabling Haniyeh and other senior members of the terror group to lead a comfortable lifestyle away from the hardships suffered by poor Palestinians in Gaza, their presence in Qatar provides them with an internationally recognized platform to spread their pernicious propaganda throughout the Middle East on the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network.


The key role Qatar plays in facilitating Hamas's ability to maintain its global presence was reflected soon after the October 7 attacks, when Doha played host to a meeting between Haniyeh and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, where the Iranian envoy praised the atrocity as a "historic victory" against Israel.


Qatar's subsequent efforts to involve itself in negotiations to secure the release of the 200 or more Israeli hostages that were taken captive during the Hamas attack are therefore being viewed with a great deal of scepticism by Western leaders, with calls being made for Qatar to end Haniyeh's life of luxury in the Gulf State.


The Qataris claim their close ties with Hamas have enabled them to help secure the release of an American mother and daughter from Chicago, who were visiting the Nahal Oz kibbutz less than two miles from Gaza when Hamas terrorists launched their attack, captured them and took them into captivity.


The release of the two women prompted US President Joe Biden to issue an official statement thanking the Qatari and Israeli governments "for their partnership" in securing the release of the two Americans.


Qatar's suggestion that it may be able to secure the release of more hostages has also been a key factor in Israel's decision to delay its ground invasion of Gaza as part of the newly-formed Israeli emergency government's aim to wipe Hamas off the face of the earth.


The prospect of further hostage releases has certainly had a significant impact on Israeli public opinion, with some calling for Israel's planned military offensive to be delayed until all the hostages have been freed, a process that could delay any future Israeli military action by months. On Sunday night a crowd gathered outside the home of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, waving placards reading "bring them home".


Qatar's skilful exploitation of the hostage crisis has even resulted in Hamas claiming on Al Jazeera that the Israeli government refused the opportunity to receive two Israelis Hamas offered as part of a hostage deal, a claim the Israelis have denounced as nothing more than Hamas "propaganda".


While Qatar is clearly exploiting the crisis caused by the Hamas attack to burnish its own credentials as a major diplomatic player, questions still remain about its true agenda, especially in the light of the controversial role Doha played in the Afghan peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban. This ultimately resulted in the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan and imposing uncompromising Islamist rule on the Afghan people.


Qatar certainly has a long history of supporting Islamist groups committed to overthrowing pro-Western Arab regimes in the Middle East. Qatar, together with Turkey, supported the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government that established a repressive Islamist regime in Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, a long-standing ally of the West. Qatar has also funded other Islamist groups in the region, such as in Libya.


The Qataris fund these extremist groups as part of their long-running campaign to undermine pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. The timing of the Hamas attack on Israel, for example, is seen as a deliberate attempt to derail the delicate negotiations between Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia, Qatar's long-standing Middle East rival, which were supposed to result in the normalisation of relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem.


Concerns that Qatar is engaging in double-dealing over the hostage issue, offering to secure the release of hostages while at the same time maintaining its support for Hamas, is a cause for concern for many Western leaders.


Qatar's hypocritical conduct has been highlighted by influential commentators such as the head of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMR), who recently made the blunt assessment on Israeli television that "Qatar is Hamas and Hamas is Qatar," and denounced Qatar as a terrorist state. He also demanded that Al Jazeera should pay the price for its ties with Hamas.


In Britain, where Qatar has invested heavily in recent years, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has faced calls to impose sanctions on Qatar for continuing to host the Hamas leaders responsible for directing the atrocity committed against Israeli civilians.


Mounting anger in London at Qatar's continued support for Hamas has also resulted in calls for boycotting Qatari-owned landmark hotels such as the Savoy and the Ritz so long as Qatar continues to provide a safe haven for Haniyeh and other Hamas terrorists.


Qatar would like the world to believe that it is acting as an honest broker with its efforts to secure the release of the Gaza captives. But the reality is that it deserves to be condemned by the West as a state that sponsors global terrorism, so long as it maintains its indefensible support for Hamas.



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Qatar - Master Double-Dealer - by Con Coughlin for The Gatestone Institute - 26.10.23
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Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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