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Has Qatar turned Away from Islamist Support in the Middle East?

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an intriguing analysis by Yaroslav Trofimov of the of Qatar’s apparent withdrawal from being a broker in the murky world of Middle East peace and Islamist causes, Qatar Scales Back Role in Middle East Conflicts.   Trofimov noted:

From mediating in Lebanon and Sudan to helping rebels in Libya and Syria and backing the Palestinian group Hamas, Qatar has been involved in virtually every Middle Eastern flash point. But, under pressure from bigger neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it has moved in recent weeks to distance itself from its traditional posture of championing Islamist movements—particularly the Muslim Brotherhood—in Egypt and elsewhere.

“The Qataris were a little bit shaken about how much blowback they have had,” said Abdullah Baabood, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University. “The recent events show they have overstretched themselves. They will now pick their battles and focus on what serves best their strategic interests.”

Trofimov drew attention to some demonstrable turns of events in December 2014 following the dust up in March when envoys from three Arab States in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia withdrew their Ambassadors.  In November the UAE followed Saudi Arabia and listed the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates Hamas,  CAIR and the Muslim American Society in the US as terrorist organizations. Trofimov noted the turnabout:

After their threats to boycott a summit of Gulf monarchies in Doha this month, Qatar revised its stance on the critical point of disagreement—how to treat the Muslim Brotherhood and the current Egyptian leadership, which ousted the Islamist group from power last year.

Having expelled several Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders ahead of the summit, Qatar sent a senior envoy to Egypt on Dec. 20 to seek a rapprochement with President Abdel Fattah El -Sisi.

Two days later, Qatar shut down the Egyptian channel of its Al Jazeera TV network, an outlet for the Brotherhood and other opponents of Egypt’s current leadership.

“The security of Egypt is important for the security of Qatar,” Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said.

Earlier on December 6, 2014, we reported that the Qatari Ambassador to the US,  H.E. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari at a presentation before the Pensacola, Florida Tiger Bay Club proclaimed, “We do not support Hamas”.  He astounded some in the audience.  That was in contrast to the views of Jon Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who in a September 2014 Congressional hearing said, “That Qatar is currently Hamas’ ATM”.  We noted Qatar’s pledge of $1 billion to rebuild Gaza after the cease fire that ended the 50 day war in the summer of 2014. Qatar had provided a luxurious safe haven for billionaire Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.  The Ambassador said, “Better to have Khaled Meshaal in Qatar than across the Gulf in Iran”.  But then there were other matters for example the Taliban office in Qatar that facilitated the exchange of senior commanders released from  Gitmo for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  Oatar had provided a long exile of anti-Semitic and anti-American Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Preacher Yusuf al Qaradawi who coincidentally had an Interpol red tag warrant issued for his arrest and extradition to Egypt on the same day as the Ambassador’s Pensacola presentation. We cited US Treasury concerns over wealthy Qatari businessmen funding Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra in Syria and the Islamic State. These stood in contrast to GCC member Kuwait that had moved at US behest to shut off the spigot of such jihad donations from wealthy individuals there.  The Qatari Ambassador cited diplomatic recognition of Israel and a state office the Jewish nation had in Doha. Curiously, the other GCC member who maintains relations with Israel, Oman, apparently doesn’t support the Palestinian cause.

The Qatari Ambassador’s  presentation on December 6th in Pensacola was eclipsed by the Emir al-Thani’s appearance at a GCC summit in Doha three days later on December 9th that marked the start of a lowering of Qatar’s profile internationally reflected in Trofimov’s WSJ revelations.

There were also some fundamental economic realities; the plummeting oil and gas prices, reflecting the excess of supply over current global demand.  That resulted in hammering the revenues of oil producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela.  There is the prospect in 2015 of the US vaulting to the forefront as both the world’s leading oil and gas producers propelled by the fracking revolution. If allowed by the Obama Administration exports of oil and gas would further weaken world prices that could result in a further drop in Qatar’s revenues.  Al Arab in a report on December 16, 2014 quoted the Qatari energy minister at an industry conference in Doha saying:

“Energy markets are interconnected, and we can see the effects of the oil price drop affecting gas too,” Mohammed al-Sada told reporters in Doha.

There was already a “strong degree of conversion of gas spot prices between different regions,” he said on the sidelines of the 16th ministerial meeting of gas exporting countries.

Oil prices have dropped by nearly 50% and natural gas prices 10% since June 2014.

Then there were still unresolved FIFA 2018 and 2022 bribery investigations of both Russia and Qatar. That has besmirched the reputation of the world football federation and its autocratic head, Sepp Blatter, following the resignation of former US Attorney Michael Garcia of the US law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, over the failure to release the final report of his investigation in bribery allegations. There have been  accusations that some of the $220 billion funds for the infrastructure  in preparation for 2022 FIFA World Cup competition  in Qatar may have involved bribes to FIFA officials and  possible  diversion of contractor payments  to fund the Jihad of the Islamic State.

Qatar’s estimated $220 billion investment in infrastructure to support the 2022 World Cup matches in its torrid climate has engendered another problem: the deaths of  nearly 1,000 foreign workers and their  near servitude-like employment and housing conditions. The Times of India in a December 24, 2014, report cited evidence of Qatar’s continuing toll of foreign workers:

A series of stories in The Guardian have shown that migrant workers from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere were dying in their hundreds.

While some were listed as having been killed in workplace accidents, many more were said to have died from sudden, unexplained cardiac arrest.

The government confirmed in the DLA Piper report that 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh had died while living and working in the Gulf state in 2012 and 2013.

The report recommended that Qatar do more to record and investigate the causes of death among the migrant population but it has made little outward progress.

After it was published, Qatar said it would reform the kafala system that keeps workers tied to their employer, and better enforce laws that require contractors to provide humane living conditions and ban them from seizing passports.

But the system that Qatar proposed to replace kafala would still leave workers tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which could be as much as five years.

Seasoned observers of the Middle East region say that Qatar under the two century rule by the Al-Thani family “has been punching internationally above its weight class” to use the boxing analogy. Yet Qatar has often been referred to as a Frenemy.  Not exactly a friend, not exactly an enemy.  The friend part is reflected in the forward operating base for the US CENTCOM at the al-Udeid airbase complex and multi-billion dollar purchases of weapons from US defense contractors. There was also the creation of an education hub for several US universities and the Brookings Institution Doha Middle East Research Center.  That may be winding down with status of forces agreement with the Afghanistan government and the Obama Administration ending active US combat participation in the conflict with the Taliban.  The enemy side of Qatar  had  until these latest developments been reflected in support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al Qaeda and Islamic State by wealthy fundamentalist Qataris.

Trofimov in his WSJ analysis cites the characterization of Qatar by a human rights critic:

Despite its rhetoric in favor of democratic change in the region, the absolute monarchy has remained just as repressive as its neighbors, said Najab al Nuaimi, the country’s former justice minister who is now a prominent human-rights lawyer.

“It is a police state. There is no democracy in Qatar. If you open your mouth, they will even strip you of your passport,” he said. “We supported directly all the uprisings, with violence, with guns—but only the Brotherhood, not the liberals.”

Thus, tiny Qatar has been forced to rein in its support of the Islamist jihadist causes because of geo-political realities, leaving Turkey’s President Erdogan as the lone supporter of Hamas in the region.  That has been  fueled by the  US energy revolution producing a glut in the weakened demand for oil and gas that precipitated  the plummeting oil and gas prices. We can thank American entrepreneurial enterprise for causing the drop in revenues to energy dependent producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela and quickening the possible demise of OPEC.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha on 12-9-14. Source: Associated Press.

Qatar Supplying U.S. Stinger missiles to the Taliban

Yesterday, on The Lisa Benson Show, that I hosted, we heard from two guests, about the extraordinary influence that tiny energy rich Gulf Emirate of  Qatar has in the Obama Administration . That was reflected in their  role facilitating the transfer of the five top Taliban Commanders to Qatar from Guantanamo in a swap for freeing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  A swap fraught with real dangers to American forces still in Afghanistan according to comments from Maj. Gen Paul Vallely, renowned Fox News  senior military analyst and Dr. David Weinberg, senior fellow in the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Shoot_down_of_Soviet_helicopter_by_Mujahedin_fighter_armed_with_Stinger_missilePresident Obama’s hoped  for euphoria  with the announcement of Bergdahl’s release with his parents in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday, May 31, 2014  were dashed  in the firestorm  of  adverse Congressional   and public criticism.  That according to Gen. Vallely   has brought into question the legality and wisdom of the  President’s decision to exchange  high risk Taliban commanders for Bergdahl.  As we noted in recent Iconoclast posts many of Bergdahl’s  platoon comrades considered him a deserter from their forward operating base in Eastern Afghanistan in late June 2009.  On the  Lisa Benson Radio Show Gen. Vallely gave the stunning news that two Afghan police has left the 25th Infantry brigade operating base at virtually the same time as Bergdahl.

Yesterday, veteran investigative journalist and author Kenneth Timmerman  brought into serious question the duplicity of the Qataris in excerpt published in the New York Post  of a forthcoming  new book by him,  Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Ben­ghazi” (Broadside Books),  How the Taliban got their hands on modern US missiles.  This adds one more  clear demonstration of the myopia by the Obama West Wing demonstrating  the blow-back from Qatar where we have invested over a half billion to build the Al Uedid Combat Air Command  and Central Command  logistical supply complex to  support our troops in Afghanistan.  It is no wonder that Dr. Weinberg’s colleague at FDD, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer has called  in the Qatari, in a Politco article both a “Frenemy” and an “ATM for the Muslim Brotherhood” in the Middle East and North Africa. With the Timmerman excerpt on how US stingers supplied the Qataris found their way to Afghanistan for the Taliban to shoot down a Chinook CH-47 helicopter in 2012, we have further evidence of why the release of those five top Taliban commanders and war criminals, by President Obama may further embolden Congressional investigative oversight of these dangerous Administration national security policies.

New York Post, June 8, 2014

How the Taliban got their hands on modern US missiles

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Kenneth R. Timmerman

In his new book, “Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi” (Broadside Books), writer Kenneth R. Timmerman explains how the US government’s efforts to arm the Libyan rebels backfired, flooding weapons into Syria, and as he ­reveals here, Afghanistan:

The Obama administration isn’t only giving the Taliban back its commanders — it’s giving them weapons.

Military records and sources reveal that on July 25, 2012, Taliban fighters in Kunar province successfully targeted a US Army CH-47 helicopter with a new generation Stinger missile.

They thought they had a surefire kill. But instead of bursting into flames, the Chinook just disappeared into the darkness as the American pilot recovered control of the aircraft and brought it to the ground in a hard landing.

The assault team jumped out the open doors and ran clear in case it exploded. Less than 30 seconds later, the Taliban gunner and his comrade erupted into flames as an American gunship overhead locked onto their position and opened fire.

us helocopter

The Taliban took out a US Chinook helicopter in 2012 with a Stinger missile signed out by the CIA around the time of the attack. Photo: Reuters

The next day, an explosive ordnance disposal team arrived to pick through the wreckage and found unexploded pieces of a missile casing that could only belong to a Stinger missile.

Lodged in the right nacelle, they found one fragment that contained an entire serial number.

The investigation took time. Arms were twisted, noses put out of joint. But when the results came back, they were stunning: The Stinger tracked back to a lot that had been signed out by the CIA recently, not during the anti-Soviet ­jihad.

Reports of the Stinger reached the highest echelons of the US command in Afghanistan and became a source of intense speculation, but no action.

Everyone knew the war was winding down. Revealing that the Taliban had US-made Stingers risked demoralizing coalition troops. Because there were no coalition casualties, government officials made no public announcement of the attack.

My sources in the US Special Operations community believe the Stinger fired against the Chinook was part of the same lot the CIA turned over to the Qataris in early 2011, weapons Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department intended for anti-Khadafy forces in Libya.

They believe the Qataris delivered between 50 and 60 of those same Stingers to the Taliban in early 2012, and an additional 200 SA-24 Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

Qatar now is expected to hold five Taliban commanders released from Guantanamo for a year before allowing them to go to Afghanistan.

But if we can’t trust the Qataris not to give our weapons to the Taliban, how can we trust them with this?

RELATED ARTICLE: Karachi airport attack: Taliban ‘trying to hijack plane’ in assault that left dozens dead

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be facing a Court Martial for desertion

If the reports we have posted from members of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon in the 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan are any indication, he could, upon investigation, be subject to possible charges of desertion.  The Los Angeles Times reported  Facebook posts by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, that could make this  be a distinct possibility, “Gen. Dempsey: Army may still pursue desertion charge for Bowe Bergdahl”.

192px-General_Martin_E._Dempsey,_CJCS,_official_portrait_2012

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff.

Dempsey wrote on his Facebook page:

Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.

Any decision on disciplinary measures will be up to the Army, Dempsey said in the interview. He said he does not want to pre-judge Bergdahl or say anything that might influence Army commanders.

In the Facebook post, Dempsey said in response to “those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of SGT. Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity.”

He added: “This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him.”

Dempsey said: “I want to thank those who for almost five years worked to find him, prepared to rescue him, and ultimately put themselves at risk to recover him.”

That last comment was perhaps an allusion to the six Army personnel from his unit who were killed  while  conducting a search for Sgt. Bergdahl. Article 85 of the Universal Military Code of Justice, Desertion, reads as follows:

(a) Any member of the armed forces who—

(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;

(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or

(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

That prospect could be what awaits Sgt. Bergdahl after he recovers from his ordeal and  evidence is presented to have him charged and brought before a courts martial proceeding.

The Los Angeles Times report cites Yale Law School military law expert, Eugene Fidell, who reviewed the conditions under which evidence might lead to a desertion charge under Article 85 and what options the Army might have available.

Bergdahl could face court-martial if the Army uncovers sufficient evidence of desertion, said Fidell. The Army might also decide to separate Bergdahl from the service through administrative procedures.

Any physical or psychological trauma could make Bergdahl unfit for continued service, Fidell said. If so, the Army would likely begin the process of arranging for retirement, medical care and other benefits.

Because the U.S. is not formally at war with the Taliban — Congress authorized military force against terrorists — a soldier serving in Afghanistan would not face the death penalty if convicted of desertion, Fidell said. The maximum penalty under these circumstances is five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for “intent to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important service,” Fidell said.

[…]

Fidell said the military may decide that, regardless of any offenses Bergdahl may have committed, he suffered nearly five years in enemy custody and should not be punished further.

The Obama Administration seized the opportunity to exchange Bergdahl for release of five Taliban commanders and war criminals to the custody of the Emir of Qatar for a year to reduce Guantanamo’s last contingent of hard core Jihadist detainees.  That has been strenuously objected to by both the Chairmen of House Intelligence and Armed services Committees and several Ranking members of similar committees in the Senate.  They are calling for a investigation followed by hearings on the release of these Taliban commanders who might organize capture of other US and ISA coalition forces before the conflict in Afghanistan winds down.

Any actions against the 28 year old Army sergeant may be unlikely to come to the fore because of the objective of extracting virtually all US? ISA troops from combat operations before election day in 2016.  That is, unless Congress weighs in with investigative hearings.

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MAD Magazine poster on release of Bergdahl. For a larger view click on the image.

Brett Stephens in a Wall Street Journal   op ed, The Bergdahl Dishonor, quoted a White House official saying “Frankly we don’t give a sh-t why he left”. “He’s an American soldier. We want to bring him home.”  A point also made by General Dempsey. That comment came n from the June 2012 Rolling Stone piece on the Bergdahl desertion controversy written by the late Michael Hastings, “America’s last Prisoner of War. 

But that belies the fact that others died trying to secure his freedom from the Jihadists, while he forsook his oath upon enlistment in the Army:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Moreover, the capture of Bergdahl may have emboldened the Taliban to undertake murderous attacks using I.E.D’s and other means resulting in casualties to other US ISA troops operating in the same province. Those issues were sharpened in a Weekly Standard piece, contrasting remarks by Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, with a soldier in Bergdahl’s unit, ‘We Swore to an Oath and We Upheld Ours. He Did Not.’

In an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday June 1, 2014, National Security Adviser Susan Rice claimed that Bergdahl “wasn’t simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, taken on the battlefield.” She added: “He served the United States with honor and distinction.”

“That’s not true,” says Specialist Cody Full, who served in the same platoon as Bergdahl, and whose tweets over the weekend as @CodyFNfootball offered an early firsthand account of Bergdahl’s departure. “He was not a hero. What he did was not honorable. He knowingly deserted and put thousands of people in danger because he did. We swore to an oath and we upheld ours. He did not.

RELATED VIDEOS:

Obama Smiles Immediately Upon Hearing Bergdahl’s Dad Declare Muslim Victory Call

[youtube]http://youtu.be/yBrp0VDUvjA[/youtube]

 

Wall Street Journal – Taliban release video of Bergdahl’s release

RELATED ARTICLES:

US Troops who served with Abdullah Bergdahl feared he was giving Taliban intel: “IEDs Started Going Off Directly Under The Trucks, They Were Getting Perfect Hits Every Time”
Special forces found Bergdahl and captors but wouldn’t risk rescue for “deserter”
Col. David Hunt: Bergdahl Called Unit The Day After He Walked Away Saying ‘I’ve Deserted’
Bergdahl Left Note Saying He Wanted to Renounce His American Citizenship and Go Find the Taliban

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured image is courtesy of WPTV Channel 5, West Palm Beach, FL.