This week in Washington D.C. marks the America-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, which brings together senior leaders from both countries to discuss the deepening of military, economic, and diplomatic partnership. As Qatar’s Ministers of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and more are meeting with their American counterparts, one area of focus in the dialogue will be in counter-terrorism cooperation.
Qatari Defense Minister H.E. Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah spoke about Monday at the Heritage Foundation on the strengthening mil-mil relationship and the joint fight against instability and terrorism. Recent high scale military asset purchases and agreements have shown Qataris’ willingness to step up to the plate, invest in their own security, become a true partner with the United States, and at the same time create thousands of jobs here in America.
Earlier this month, President Trump released a statement praising Qatar for combatting terrorism. President Trump thanked Qatar for “action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms.” This statement acknowledges the close working relationship that Qatar has developed with the Trump administration as a critical ally in the war on terror.
President Trump also made clear that, contrary to accusations by regional rivals, the Qatari government does not have a policy of supporting or funding terror.
Defense Minister Al Attiyah while in D.C. noted that Qatar has spent billions of dollars of Qatari state funds building a massive airbase in Qatar’s capital, Doha, that houses over 11,000 U.S. military personnel.
The Al Udeid Air base is a key U.S. asset from which U.S. warplanes conduct offensive missions against ISIS and other terrorist groups.
In fact, without this air base, President Trump’s military victory over ISIS in Syria and Iraq would have been much more difficult if not impossible. Qatar, furthermore, is expanding its military substantially — with American-sourced arms — to become a more impactful strategic partner for U.S. military operations. This buildup supports tens of thousands of American jobs and improves Qatar’s own defense posture in the region.
Going beyond just military support, under the Trump Administration, Qatar and the United States have greatly increased cooperation and enforcement of laws that prevent financing of terrorism.
Of course, the Qatar government has never supported terrorism in any form as this is antithetical to Qatar’s values and beliefs.
However, a major problem in the Middle East is financing of terror that comes from wealthy citizens from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC). These citizens use charities and mazes of bank accounts to evade government oversight and send financial support to terrorist groups around the world.
Thanks to President Trump and cooperation from Qatar, the ability of terror financiers to operate in Qatar has been severely restricted.
In July 2017, Qatar signed an MOU with the Trump Administration to curtail terrorist financing activities. The United States now will deploy American officials to the Qatari state prosecutor’s office to identify individuals financing terror from within Qatar’s borders. Anyone identified as sponsoring terrorism will have assets frozen, will be placed on a travel ban list, and will be prosecuted immediately. No other nation in the GCC has signed such a far-reaching agreement with the United States to counter terrorist financing.
Qatar also made progress fighting charities that fund terrorism. In 2014, Qatar greatly increased government oversight of charities, preventing them from sending money to overseas groups with ties to terrorists. Qatar also increased scrutiny of individuals who raise money for charities especially via social media.
In October of 2017, this new legal structure started to bear fruit as Qatar, in conjunction with the U.S. Treasury Department, agreed to designate 11 individuals and two organizations as financiers of terrorism.
Under Qatar’s newly enacted counter-terrorism laws, these individuals and entities are now forbidden from traveling to Qatar and any assets they possess in Qatar are immediately frozen.
Also, Qatar shut down bank accounts related to Hamas which prompted U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to say Qatar “does not fund Hamas.”
The strong framework for fighting terrorism that Qatar and President Trump have implemented is a critical step forward in the fight against terror. Qatari-U.S. anti-terrorism cooperation is a model for other countries in the region to follow especially as the Trump Administration turns its attention to distant battlefields in Afghanistan and Libya where ISIS is attempting to reconstitute itself near the southern city of Sirte.
Qatar is one of only six GCC countries, many of which are major sources of terror financing. As Senator Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, “the amount of support for terrorism by Saudi Arabia dwarfs what Qatar is doing.”
If other GCC nations fail to get on board with the model counter-terrorism cooperation of Qatar and the United States, the flow of financing to terrorist groups in Afghanistan such as the Taliban will precipitate a near term Afghan civil war. This will deepen U.S. involvement and cost untold numbers of U.S. soldiers’ lives.
President Trump was right to forge a close working relationship with Qatar to stop the flow of terror financing from the GCC. Now to prevent a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Libya and the spread of extremism everywhere, other GCC nations must follow President Trump and Qatar’s crackdown on terror financing.
Christopher Nixon Cox is the grandson of Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States. He graduated Princeton with a degree in Politics, magna cum laude. He is a lawyer in New York City and a non-resident fellow in Princeton University’s Liechtenstein Institute for Self Determination. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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