U.S. President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Show me who your friends are, goes the timeless adage, and I’ll show you who you are. Indeed, judging US President Barack Obama by the company he prefers to keep is very enlightening.
Obama refused to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week and all the president’s men and women outdid each other in heaping scorn on the unwanted guest from Jerusalem. But just a few days earlier the red carpet was rolled out enthusiastically for Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Not enough praise could be heaped on the emir as he visited the White House for the first time since taking over from his father in 2013.
The difference could not be more striking. Netanyahu, who spares no effort to combat terrorism, was persona non grata. Yet Tamim, whose country financially underpins some of the region’s worst bad-guys, was greeted with the pomp and circumstance typically reserved for the closest ideological soul mates.
There was no shadow of a hint of displeasure with Qatar’s chumminess with the most extreme of jihadists, nor with its appalling human rights record.
“The United States and Qatar have a very strong security relationship,” Obama said approvingly. “Qatar is a strong partner in our coalition to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” aka Islamic State.
Obama’s accolades are misplaced.
Qatar is the generous benefactor of given Islamic State factions, of al-Qaida (particularly the Syrian arm thereof, Jabhat al-Nusra), the Muslim Brotherhood and kindred outfits. Besides keeping them in the money, the emirate actively spreads their message via its Al Jazeera network. Doha has incontrovertibly ignited and fanned the flames of the misnamed Arab Spring.
Qatar has proved itself a disruptive element – to resort to gross understatement – in the entire region, from its interference in Turkish politics (on the side of its ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan) and all the way to picking up the tab for a plethora of jihadist interlopers in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (where the Afghan Taliban is regarded as Qatar’s favorite), to meddling in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Qatar aggressively proselytizes for converts to Islam in Africa. Its intrusive footprint is everywhere.
Despite its past pretensions to parade as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas, Doha unequivocally backs Hamas and generously foots its bills.
Qatar consistently rejected Israel’s demands for a demilitarized Gaza Strip, with its lethal rocket stockpiles and death-tunnels eliminated. It was Qatari funding that got Hamas its firepower and enabled it to dig under the border with Israel in the first place.
Qatar was the sponsor and financial underwriter for Egypt’s short-lived Muslim Brotherhood regime and Qatar is ultra-hostile to the Sisi government that replaced the Brotherhood. The money trail leads directly from Doha to the anti-Egyptian terrorist groups. This has strained relations also with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar condemned Egyptian air strikes in Libya after the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts. Egypt openly accuses Qatar of backing Libyan terrorists, particularly the Fajr militia that enjoys both Qatari and Turkish endorsement.
Qatar itself has become the hub of the Sunni axis it props up. No wonder that Qatar is the home and base of operations for the incendiary Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi – the extreme cleric who keeps extolling Hitler, who justified suicide bombing against Jews and who is one of the chief mentors for the Qatari emir. Tamim’s fundamentalist Islamic bent is hardly a secret.
Moreover, Qatar, which is avidly wooed by the world’s democracies, is not remotely democratic and its leadership is unelected. With 11,000 square kilometers, oil-glutted Qatar is about half little Israel’s size. Its native population numbers some 200,000, but it has more than 2 million foreign workers. They lack any civil rights and many of them toil under slave-like conditions.
That appears not to have hurt Qatar’s standing with the Obama administration. It was all assiduously overlooked in the efforts to shower tributes on Tamim as America’s darling. Netanyahu, conversely, was vehemently disparaged as a brazen gatecrasher.