The Hill

End America’s Unwise Alliance with Qatar

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Lusail Palace, Lusail, on January 7, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein via Getty Images)
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Lusail Palace, Lusail, on January 7, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein via Getty Images)

An alliance with the U.S. — specifically, a Major Non-NATO alliance — was once the most highly coveted relationship a nation could earn, a sacrosanct pact of mutual importance. But one such alliance is now a liability for both the U.S. and its long-time allies.

Qatar, our oil-wealthy “ally” in the Persian Gulf, is funding and harboring terrorists that not only threaten American forces but are attacking long-standing American allies. Worse yet, Doha believes this terrorist/ally balance is protected because the country hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.

A U.S. base should give America leverage with the country hosting it — it should not give leverage to Iran, in the case of Iraq; and it should not give leverage to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in the case of Qatar.

Qatar is counting on the proposition that hosting a strategically significant U.S. base insulates Doha from the repercussions of funding and supporting Hamas attacks against Israel and helping the terrorist organization survive to carry out more such attacks in the future —attacks promised by Hamas leaders from luxury hotels in Doha.

How did the Hamas political office end up in the capital of a U.S. ally? Qatar’s ambassador to the U.S. says the nation was asked by the Obama administration in 2012 to set up “indirect lines of communication” with Hamas. Doha gravely mistook the request. Qatar was certainly not asked to give Hamas billions of dollars, give its leaders a platform on Al Jazeera to call for jihad, and embed its reporters to film terrorist attacks.

There should be a cost: targeted sanctions and designations like those established by the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force, which was set up to seize and reallocate assets to support the victims of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. The U.S. should seize assets tied to individuals and entities in Qatar for supporting terrorist groups, especially those tied to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism. The U.S. should use those funds to replenish the U.S. Victims Of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

It’s time to put Doha on notice that they are jeopardizing their relationship with the U.S. by providing material support to designated terrorist groups. Qatar is clearly acting like a state sponsor of terror and should not be allowed to use the U.S. banking system to bypass existing, though not enforced, sanctions on funding Iran and its terrorist proxies.

The U.S. needs to end the facade of Qatar being a major player in the region. Designated terrorist leaders are happy to take Doha’s money and easily intimidate the tiny kingdom to make further payments and concessions. Doha is a bank that requires nothing from Tehran or its terrorist proxies to secure billions. Qatar has not delivered results. It has delivered only the one thing it excels at — money.

The U.S. has become the best ally Qatar can buy, from bribing officials to buying the support and silence of institutions; from Sen. Bob Menendez to Sen. Lindsey Graham, from Texas A&M to Cornell University. Qatar is using its influence and its proceeds from American investments to steal intellectual property, fund terrorism and foment anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment through its funding to universities, to pro-Hamas groups, and its propaganda machine, Al Jazeera.

So what are we going to do about a country that resembles the Mos Eisley Cantina or The Continental hotel?

We have every tool at our disposal to sanction and designate the main players. The mere threat to disfavor Doha and freeze the funds of their front companies would result in a “please don’t, we can stop” response.

It is time to disclose Qatari money to American think tanks, universities, high schools, politicians, journalists and businesses. Qatar cannot fund Hamas and the Taliban while buying influence in the U.S. to silence critics and secure praise from politicians.

Congress must weigh in and cancel the 10-year extension of the military base in Qatar, which was quietly done behind the scenes by the Biden White House and fast-tracked as the spotlight on Qatar’s seedy ties grew more intense. We need to call Al Jazeera what it is — a foreign agent that promotes terrorism and anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment. We need to move our base out of Qatar and designate Qatar a state sponsor of terror.

An alliance with the U.S. should be a coveted position, not one where our enemies profit through their ties to a corrupt regime.

Read in The Hill.