On Saturday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited the Gulf emirate of Qatar, home to a large and sophisticated American air base crucial for U.S. operations in the Middle East. Jonathan Schanzer hopes that Mattis exerted pressure on Qatar to crack down on the terrorist financiers who operate in its borders with impunity. And, serious as this problem is, it is not the only one:
Qatar harbors the bad guys, too. In 2015, two senior Taliban officials traveled in and out of Qatar to meet members of the notorious Taliban Five—high-level prisoners from Guantanamo Bay who were traded to Qatari custody by the Obama administration for the American prisoner Bowe Bergdahl. The Qataris facilitated the swap through the Taliban embassy they helped set up in Doha. Leaked cables show U.S. officials have long worried about how the Taliban and others may “exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale.”
There is also the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which enjoys safe haven in Qatar and also raises plenty of cash. Outgoing leader Khaled Meshal has long operated out of Doha. The Hamas military official Saleh Arouri—suspected of masterminding the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, sparking the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel—is [also] now reportedly in Qatar after being booted from Turkey. . . .
Despite all this, officials in Washington often turn a blind eye. . . . Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama punished the Qataris for terrorism finance. Indeed, Qatar should have been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department. It never was.