What Did Qatar Know about the Hamas Attacks, and When Did It Know It?

Earlier this month, a mainstream Jewish organization announced that it was planning a “gathering” outside the Qatari embassy in Washington, demanding it pressure Hamas to release hostages. The demonstration was subsequently cancelled due to inclement weather, but it has not been rescheduled and the webpage with details about the gathering has been taken down. One can only hope that the organizers were not dissuaded by the Gulf emirate’s massive influence operation in the West (including over $1 million in donations to New York City public schools), which it has already used to discourage the families of hostages from taking such measures. Given the fact that Qatar funds and hosts Hamas, provides it with diplomatic cover, and propagandizes on its behalf, it certainly has leverage over the organization. It is also likely to be embarrassed by public demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Doha has continued to portray itself as a helpful interlocutor, reportedly proposing another ceasefire deal this week, which appears to have fallen through already. Matthew Karnitschnig raises an even more troubling possibility:

In a series of conversations with Politico in recent weeks, Western intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that while they have no hard evidence, there are indications the emirate may have known more about the October 7 attack than it has let on.

The primary motivation Qatar would have had to remain silent if it caught wind of the attack, the intelligence officials said, was its interest in derailing talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a regional rival, over normalizing relations.

An agreement between the two largest economies in the region could have opened the door to strategic cooperation across a host of areas, including natural gas, Qatar’s lifeblood. Given Israel’s direct access to the Mediterranean and European markets, any energy collaboration with Saudi Arabia would be a game changer.

I’m always cautious about putting too much stock in anonymous reports from unnamed intelligence officials. Yet even if the worst allegations aren’t true, Qatar’s support for Hamas is a fact. And this should make the U.S. reconsider the results of what Karnitschnig calls Doha’s “decades-long effort to make itself an indispensable partner to all sides of the Middle East equation.”

Read more at Politico

More about: American Jewry, Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Qatar, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy