Qatar called 'inexcusably negligent' on terrorism fight

Three years into a leadership change in Qatar, the country has taken few if any steps toward clamping down on individuals identified as financiers and supporters of radical Islamic militants operating in Syria and elsewhere, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

In the second of a three-part investigation into Qatar and its approach to the financing of militant groups, David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the foundation, concludes that little has changed in the three years since Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took over as leader of the country.

Weinger said not a single individual based in Qatar and named by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as helping groups such as the al Qaida-linked Nusra Front has been publicly charged with any crime.

Weinberg authored the report, “Qatar and Terror Finance,” published this month, which looks at what has happened since Emir Tamin took over following the abdication of his father, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The new emir has been in power for approximately three years without evidence his government has brought any charges under so-called terror finance laws against funders of the Nusra Front, Weinberg told the Gulf News Journal.

“The issue of the Nusra Front, which is still al-Qaida in Syria, needs to be addressed,” Weinberg said. “It is a common misconception that the U.S. has no leverage, but there are several things the U.S. can do. The Treasury Department has called the government out for negligence on terror finance and described it as a permissive jurisdiction.”

Weinberg said the Trump Administration should not hold back on Qatar, despite the Middle Eastern country's close relationship with the United States, and should start shifting equipment out of Qatar as a start. He said it is particularly vital to evaluate Qatar’s record on terror finance in light of the Nusra Front’s July 2016 decision to rebrand itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS).

JFS purports to have “no relationship with any foreign party,” Weinberg wrote. But according to sources cited by Reuters, Qatar led an effort starting in 2015 to bolster the Syrian opposition by persuading Nusra to distance itself from al-Qaida.

“Reuters reported that intelligence officials from Qatar and other gulf states met several times with Nusra’s leader around this period to suggest that his group could receive money, arms and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaida,” Weinberg wrote. “Yet the more JFS legitimates itself by integrating into the broader Syrian opposition, the greater the risk of a permanent al-Qaida army on Europe’s doorstep.”

The report evaluates the available evidence on Qatar’s record since the new emir ascended to power, focusing on individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2015.

“All of these sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014, as part of a U.S.-led initiative called the Jeddah Communiqué, to bring terror financiers to justice. The cases should therefore be seen as a measuring stick for recent Qatari conduct,” Weinberg wrote.

Washington claims that some individuals have been charged, but they have not been named, Weinberg told the Gulf News Journal.

“It is not anywhere near enough,” he said. “They have been inexcusably negligent.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute dedicated to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism. It was founded shortly after the attacks of 9/11.