Secretary Mathis: Time To Get Tough On Qatar
What Secretary of Defense Jim Mathis didn’t say… is echoing across the Middle East tonight.
Earlier today, April 22, Mathis met with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah in Doha. In a readout of the meeting released by the Pentagon, Mathis did not mention Qatar’s funding and support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Apparently, he did not even bring it up.
American and Arab officials are wondering when the U.S. is going to get tough with Qatar over its open support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Solely over the issue of Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates publicly broke with Qatar earlier this year and withdrew their ambassadors. While there was been some making-up in public statements on both sides, behind the scenes, Qatar’s neighbors are incensed and incredulous that the tiny peninsular nation would continue to fund and support radical Islamists who want to overthrow their governments.
Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood is well known and beyond debate. Its state-run Al Jazeera channel, which reaches upwards of 60 million Arabic and English-language speakers worldwide, regularly presents guests who are associated with the Brotherhood. For years, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, was given his own television show on that channel. Saudi and Egyptian officials have long said that Qatar is funding Brotherhood front-groups across the Middle East, including groups working to overthrow the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt—two key U.S. allies. Qatar also offered safe haven to a number of Brotherhood-linked terrorists, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He was a member of the Kuwait branch of the Muslim Brotherhood as a teenager and went on to mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. Qatar gave him a government-funded apartment and a no-show government job in 1996.
The Saudis and the Gulf Arab states couldn’t count on much support from the Obama Administration. Some Arab officials thought that the Obama White House had been too close to the Brotherhood-backed Egyptian government, which was overthrown by a military coup. Other Arab officials feared that Obama was too timid to take on Emir Thani.
President Trump, on the other hand, was welcomed with great hope by the Saudis and Gulf Arabs. He seemed strong and decisive on television and they were impressed in their private meetings. They came away believing that the Trump Administration clearly understood that Iran’s mullahs were a threat to be caged, not a tiger to be tamed with paper treaties, aid dollars and conference invitations.
Privately, many of them hoped that the Trump Administration would use the Mathis’ visit to deliver a message to Qatar: If you want our protection, drop your support for the Brotherhood, which threatens the peace and security of Israel, our Arab allies and our homeland. If you want to keep sheltering and funding these extremists, those sounds you hear are America’s military protection steaming and flying away. You are on your own, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Best of luck to you. Or, more diplomatic words to that effect.
The U.S. has an air base in Qatar, housing some 10,000 Americans, and the U.S. Navy often makes port calls there.