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Qatar and U.S.: Collusion or Conflict of Interests


line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>In view of the level of “coordination” and “cooperation” since bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1972 between the U.S. and Qatar, and the concentration of U.S. military power on this tiny peninsula, it seems impossible that Qatar could move independently apart, in parallel with, away or on a collision course with the U.S. strategic and regional plans.

According to the US State department’s online fact sheet, “bilateral relations are strong,” both countries are “coordinating” diplomatically and “cooperating” on regional security, have a “defense pact,” “Qatar hosts CENTCOM Forward Headquarters,” and supports NATO and U.S. regional “military operations. Qatar is also an active participant in the U.S.–led efforts to set up an integrated missile defense network in the Gulf region. Moreover, it hosts the U.S. line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>Al Udeid Air Base, 5,000 U.S. forces.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>The Qatar–Brotherhood marriage of convenience has created the natural incubator of Islamist armed fundamentalists against whom the U.S., since September 11, 2001, has been leading what is labeled as the “global war on terrorism.”

The war in the African nation Mali offers the latest example on how the U.S. and Qatar, seemingly, go on two separate ways. Whereas US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, was in London on January 18 “commending” the French “leadership of the international effort” in Mali to which his country was pledging logistical, transportation and intelligence support, Qatar appeared to risk its special ties with France, which peaked during the NATO – led war on Libya, and to distrust the U.S. and French judgment.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>In a relatively older example, according to WikiLeaks, Somalia’s former president in 2009, Sharif Ahmed, told a U.S. diplomat that Qatar was channeling financial assistance to the al-Qaeda – linked Shabab al-Mujahideen, which the U.S. listed as “terrorist.”

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>Recently, Qatar has, for another example, replaced Syria, which has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979, as the sponsor of Hamas, whose leadership relocated from Damascus to Doha, which the U.S. lists as a “terrorist” group, and which publicly admits being the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>In the Mali case, the Qatari PM Sheikh Hamad went on record to declare this ambition: “We will be a part of the solution, (but) not the sole mediator,” he said. The U.S. blessing could not be more explicit than President Obama’s approval of opening the Afghani Taliban office in Doha “to facilitate” a “negotiated peace in Afghanistan,” according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry on January 16.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";background:white”>Hence the U.S. blessing. The Soufan Group’s intelligence analysts on last December 10 concluded that “Qatar continues to prove itself to be a pivotal U.S. ally, … Qatar is often able to implement shared U.S.-Qatari objectives that Washington is unable or unwilling to undertake itself.

The first term Obama administration, under the pressure of “fiscal austerity,” blessed the Qatari funding of arming anti – Gaddafi Islamists in Libya, closed its eyes to Qatar’s shipment of Gaddafi’s military arsenal to Syrian and non – Syrian Islamists fighting the regime in Syria, “understood” the visit of Qatar’s Emir to Gaza last October as “a humanitarian mission,” and recently approved to arm the Qatar – backed and Brotherhood – led Egypt with line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>This contradiction raises the question about whether this is a U.S. – Qatari mutual collusion or it is really a conflict of interests; the Obama administration during his second term has to draw the line which would give an explicit answer.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>Drawing on the historical experience of an Iranian similar “religious” approach, but on a rival “Shiite” sectarian basis, this Qatari “Sunni” Islamist” connection will inevitably fuel sectarian polarization in the region, regional instability, violence and civil wars.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>Traditionally, Qatar, which stands in the eye of the storm in the very critical geopolitical volatile Gulf region, the theatre of three major wars during the last three decades, did its best to maintain a critical and fragile balance between the two major powers which determine its survival, namely the decades – old U.S. military presence in the Gulf and the rising regional power of Iran.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-language:AR-JO”>However, since the eruption of the bloody Syrian crisis two years ago, the Qatari opening up to regional pro – Iran state and non-state powers was exposed as merely a tactical maneuver to lure such powers away from Iran. In the Syrian and Hezbullah cases, the failure of this tactic has led Qatar to embark on a collision course with both Syria and Iran, which are backed by Russia and China, and is leading the country to a U-turn shift away from its long maintained regional balancing act, a shift that Doha seems unaware of its threat to its very survival under the pressure of the international and regional conflicting interests as bloodily exposed in the Syrian crisis.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

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