The role of Qatar as a hub of terror financing is becoming more and more widely publicized as the Islamic State advances on Kobani and Baghdad.
International pressure on getting Qatar to shut down terrorist money
Terror: Danes in the Islamic State were helped in their war by extremists drawing their funding from Qatar. Now there are demands for plugging the terrorists’ financial pipeline
by Thomas Vibjerg, Henrik Thomsen, Jyllands-Posten correspondents
OSWALD / LONDON Qatar is under growing international pressure because of millions of terror dollars allegedly being pumped into the Islamic State and other radical Islamist movements from offices in the wealthy emirate on the Persian Gulf. Huge amounts from generous supporters and ransom laundered by the small oil state are channeled, disguised as humanitarian charity, to terrorist movements such as Islamic State, without the regime in Doha dealing effectively with the problem, say Western leaders and analysts. And according to a report from the Danish Treasury Department, some of the 100 Danes with the Islamic State got help from an extremist who is funded from Qatar. Qatar’s central role as a kind of financial Mecca of the Islamic State has led to calls for economic sanctions, and that may put Denmark in a difficult dilemma. Denmark’s largest company, AP Møller-Mærsk plays a key economic role in Qatar, where more than a third of the country’s oil production — 300,000 barrels a day —is purchased by Maersk Oil, according to the company’s website.
Important base for the United States
Although Qatar does not contribute any fighter jets, the regime in Doha is officially supporting the coalition against the Islamic State, and the United States has an important air base in the country. But at the same time the Qatar government — according to critics in the West — ignores traffickers who use Qatar to launder terrorist money. Critics argue that the regime in Qatar could easily stop the flow of money, if they wanted to. But it does not happen.
“Qatar should be thrown out of the alliance. We are at war with the Islamic state, and we can not have someone on the team that is also on the other side,” says Søren Espersen, foreign policy spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, but he rejects sanctions against Qatar. “If the players ride several horses, it is very appalling. For reasons of principle, I am against sanctions — whether it’s against Russia, Burma or Qatar — because it always hits our own business people. And in this case, I do not think that sanctions pose a real threat to Qatar because the country is so rich that it can ignore such things,” says Søren Espersen.
Do not rule out sanctions
Former Foreign Minister Holger K. Nielsen (SF), however, will not rule out the necessity of sanctions against Qatar, “Economic sanctions can be an option. Seen from our side it will certainly not be Maersk that going to stand in the way of sanctions,” said Holger K. Nielsen who, however, believes that the United States first must find out if the accusations against Qatar are valid “The Americans must address Qatar and clarify whether the allegations are correct. If they are, it will naturally have consequences, because we obviously can not accept that Qatar is playing a double game,” Nielsen said.
Also Ole Hækkerup (S) — a member of the Foreign Policy Committee — would like to see the United States have a serious talk with the government in Doha: “Although there is a difference between allegations and evidence, there is an impression that Qatar is doing something criminal. We need to have a thorough talk with them, but I do not have a clear plan concerning concrete consequences against Qatar,” says Ole Hækkerup, who will not accept that countries in the coalition are playing a double game. The United States has long been critical of Qatar’s lack of control of terrorist money. “Qatar’s monitoring of individuals and charitable organizations’ financial support for foreign entities is still inconsistent,” says a recent report from the State Department.
The US Treasury Department speaks more frankly, and has published specific examples of transactions from Qatar to terrorists. In a report the Ministry mentions that one of the leaders of the Islamic State — Tariq Al-Harzi — received more than 10 million for his organisation in the summer of 2013 from a source in Qatar. Among other things, Al-Harzi is responsible for providing weapons training to foreign volunteers on the border between Syria and Turkey. “Specifically, he arranged Europeans’ travel to Turkey and on to Syria. He helped fighters from Britain, Albania and Denmark to enter the Islamic State’s group of ‘foreign fighters’,” says the report from the American ministry.
According to the Americans and the British, money from Qatar is not only going to Islamic State, but also to an al-Qaeda branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza. Radical Islamists in Libya allegedly receive money from sources in Qatar. Large amounts are supposedly being channeled from Qatar to the Nusra Front. The Nusra Front used to be in close cooperation with the Islamic State, and now a part of the weapons they bought have ended up in the Islamic State, writes the British newspaper The Telegraph.
Can work openly
The newspaper also quotes a Western diplomat saying that the Islamists’ money men can work openly in Qatar. “Between eight and twelve key persons in Qatar provide millions of dollars for holy war. They do not even try to act quietly,” said the Western diplomat to the newspaper. As the escalation of the air raids against the Islamic State continues, the demands grow to plug the extremist financial pipeline.
Among the advocates of economic sanctions against Qatar is the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee in the British Parliament, the Conservative Malcolm Rifkind, and most recently, two former generals and a former defense minister publicly endorsed the requirement that the British Government act more robustly against the regime in Doha. “One of the main reasons why the Islamic State and other jihadi terrorist groups are so powerful in the Middle East is the financial aid and arms supplies which they receive from people in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but in particular from Qatar,” writes Malcolm Rifkind in a newspaper comment. He states that Qatar cannot both be friends with Western countries and also act as a haven for Islamist extremists. “They must choose their friends or live with the consequences,” concludes Malcolm Rifkind, who was a minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Richard Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff, and Jonathan Shaw, former general of the Defence Staff and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox also believe that the government of the UK should push Qatar to crack down on terror financing.