- - Thursday, July 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With President Trump’s inauguration, the United States may have a unique chance to finally deal with the sources of terror in the Middle East in a more decisive way than at any time since 9/11.

But this effort will require America to take off the blinders, no matter where this trail may lead. And that definitely includes a fresh and searching look at the very nation that hosts the critical U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center in the Middle East — Qatar.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just visited our allies in the Arab Gulf, attempting to broker a truce after four Gulf nations broke off relations with Qatar for allegedly financing and supporting terror movements around the region.

Now is the time for Washington to remember who its real allies are, allies like Saudi Arabia, the oil market maker, the largest arms buyer and a massive investor in U.S. Treasuries.

The days of the Obama administration cozying up with the Muslim Brotherhood are over. Qatar made a bet that the U.S. would continue down the path of enabling extremists, and saw the green light to fund, shelter and enable terror via its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamist movement, which begat the Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda.

Qatar-based preachers and fundraisers also have close ties to the Islamic State, while Doha is also cozy with the Shia theocracy of Iran and Hamas, the Brotherhood’s terror arm in Gaza and Israel.

Well, it’s proving a bad bet.

Qatar is far too close for comfort with Iran, at a time when the Gulf states see Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs as an existential threat. Qatar has made Al-Jazeera Arabic into Jihad TV, a mouthpiece for violent extremists. Doha even supported the group that attacked American facilities in Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia, who brutally murdered a U.S. ambassador.

Qatar has no one to blame but itself for the sanctions imposed by its Gulf neighbors.

The U.S. should, of course, try to find a solution to the standoff. However, there is a storm coming in the Middle East, a likely conflict between Iran and the Sunni states allied to the West. German intelligence reported just this week that Iran has not given up in its quest for nuclear technology, despite its statements to the contrary.

America will need the Gulf allies in any potential flare-up with Tehran and its terror armies and militias spread out from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. America needs the Saudis and the others for future energy and economic cooperation as the Trump administration tries to reach 3 percent annual growth.

The main thorn in the side of the Gulf states has been Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the “Arab Spring” erupted in 2010, the Middle East has been inflamed with fights to the death between factions struggling for power. Those contests still rage in Syria.

Qatar strongly backed the Brotherhood in Egypt, and Qatar’s emir has long befriended Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, nicknamed the “Theologian of Terror,” who has lived in Qatar since 1961. Al Jazeera became a platform for Mr. Qaradawi’s blood-curdling preachings.

Qatar gave shelter to Brotherhood operatives even after the fall of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, financed their continued propaganda, and supported their fundraisers, as evidenced by the recent public display to Mr. Qaradawi’s closeness to the Emir. Mr. Qaradawi also issued a fatwa in favor of killing American soldiers in Iraq, and Israelis, wherever they could be found.

Even after a 2014 agreement between Qatar and the Gulf kingdoms to cease these nefarious activities, Qatar continued to support the Muslim Brotherhood and offer not just refuge, but a secure base to run operations and spread its ideology.

Qatar’s relationship with Iran is even more troubling. A memo leaked by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi showed Qatar funneled a half-billion dollar ransom payment, possibly the largest in history, to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps-supported Shia militias earlier this year.

With President Obama’s midnight cash payment of almost $2 billion as part of the nuclear deal, Iran can finance lots of mischief in the Middle East. Qatar also funds Al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, directly. Many other terror operatives are allowed to operate in Qatar without worry of being detained.

Mr. Tillerson came away from his first stop in Doha touting an agreement with the emir to jointly fight terrorism. This seems like signing an agreement with the fox to guard the hens. And please tell me — why there is an uproar over a suggested cyber deal with Russia, but an anti-terror deal with the benefactor of the Muslim Brotherhood raises no eyebrows?

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, recently discussing Qatar’s record, stated bluntly that no U.S. facility in the region is so indispensable that it cannot be moved. It may be the time for the Trump administration to examine that option.

• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.

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