A popular Arab saying goes, “The Americans are good people—they can easily be deceived.” There is no better proof of this observation than the Emirate of Qatar, which for over a quarter of a century has successfully fooled American administrations, both Republican and Democrat, pretending that it is America’s ally while actually being the polar opposite.
For more than two decades, Qatar has been fostering and advancing nearly every terrorist organization that has murdered Americans. It praised Osama bin Laden, and after him Ayman Al-Zawahiri, to the skies. An Al-Jazeera host wrote in the Qatari daily Al-Watan that the anti-Islamic State coalition is a “Crusade in a new guise.”
Two months before 9/11, on Qatar’s state-run Al-Jazeera TV, bin Laden was lionized in a show dedicated to him. He was called “the No. 1 Arab and Islamic hero” and “the conscience of the Arab and Islamic world.” The program host underlined that as “the nation thirsts deeply for someone who will confront America … not with words and slogans,” and said that bin Laden was “the right man for this important role.” And indeed he was.
The same show gave a platform to an Al-Qaeda recruiter to announce that “today the nation needs, first of all, 12,000 young Mujahideen recruited to defend the religion, as the Prophet Muhammad said: ‘12,000 will not be defeated by a few.’”
When the FBI arrived in Qatar to arrest 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had found a safe haven there—and disclosed its mission only to the emir—Mohammed disappeared overnight.
Is Qatar really a strategic ally?
How can an emirate that has provided years and years of existential support to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah be considered, by American administrations and Congresses, an ally? Never mind that Qatar cultivates anti-Semitism, even allowing Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, hosted and protected for decades by Qatar, to call on its airwaves for a new Holocaust to be carried out “at the hands of the Muslims.”
How can an emirate whose state-run TV gives hours of screen time to Al-Qaeda’s leader in Syria, airs live coverage of oaths of allegiance to ISIS, and throws an in-studio birthday party complete with fireworks, a band and a cake for a Hezbollah terrorist who murdered children—Hezbollah being an organization that has murdered hundreds of Americans in Lebanon—and provides a platform for other terrorists to call for attacks against America be considered an ally?
How can an emirate that thwarts every measure taken by the United States be considered an ally? For example, when the United States sanctioned Turkey for its unjust detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, Qatar rushed to help Turkey, throwing it an $18 billion lifeline. When the United States pressures the United Nations and stops its funding of particular programs, Qatar immediately steps in with hundreds of millions in replacement funding so that the programs can continue as before. Is this an ally?
Yet who knows how to pull off a grand deception better than Qatar?
In recent days, the emirate has come out with a series of sponsored ads in Washington, D.C., papers that would never publish such lies unless they were very well paid. The truth is that nothing can erase what President Donald Trump said in the Rose Garden in June 2017: “The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level. … I decided along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals, and military people, the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding.”
This was in testimony by former Secretary of State Tillerson—a man joined to Qatar at the hip via Exxon Mobil. Since these statements were made, Qatar has invested many millions, and according to media reports even over $1 billion, to buy Washington lobbying groups to conceal its true nature and to disguise itself as a friend of the United States.
As the Arabs say, “The Americans are good people—they can easily be deceived.”
Last week the Qatari emir visited Washington; President Trump called him “a great friend.” Acting Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper held an Armed Forces Arrival Salute in his honor. Everyone is familiar with Trump’s rhetoric—everyone is his “friend”—the North Korean dictator, the Chinese dictator—and the emir of Qatar, who inherited his throne without the hassle of elections and who last week promised to pour nearly $100 billion into infrastructure projects in the United States.
Indeed, in all of this, there is one fact of great military and strategic importance: At the same time as it is inciting against the United States 24/7, by varied and diverse means, Qatar is also providing the United States with a massive military base, built specifically for the United States and at no charge to it whatsoever, where three American strategic commands are deployed.
But this, too, the Americans greatly misunderstand: The various administrations always felt indebted to Qatar for hosting it, but the truth is that—from the very first day of the U.S. military presence in Qatar—it is Qatar that has been indebted to the United States. The U.S. military base is the only guarantee of Qatar’s continued existence. It is first and foremost a Qatari existential interest. And because of its great fear that one day the United States might pull out, Qatar continues to expand it; it now has plans to set up city centers for the families of the U.S. troops, at a cost of billions, so that they will never, God forbid, even begin to think about moving anywhere else.
A CENTCOM Posture Statement dated Feb. 5, 2019, noted that “Qatar is a critical partner in the Arabian Peninsula providing CENTCOM with invaluable regional access.” Two lines down, it stated, “The access, basing, and overflight that Qatar provides would be costly to replicate anywhere else in the region.” The author, obviously aware of the ridiculousness of this statement, was moved to add the second line indicating that leaving the Qatari base for another location would be prohibitively costly. The wise will draw their own conclusions.
But the truth is that what is happening before our very eyes is that just as Qatar has bought the entire world—for example, for hosting the 2022 World Cup, and massive properties the length and breadth of the West—it is likewise purchasing the goodwill of the U.S. Armed Forces. The latter do not seem to realize, or simply don’t mind, the fact that this deal is costing it dearly—they are there in the first place because of Qatar’s quarter-century of sponsoring terrorism in the Arab world and South Asia.
But the leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces are Americans, and as we all know, “Americans are good people.”
Yigal Carmon is president of MEMRI.