Why Courting Qatar Won’t Help to Restrain Russia

On Monday, President Biden met with Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar at the White House, and formally designated the Persian Gulf monarchy a major non-NATO ally. For the U.S., the main concern appears to be energy: if Russia renews its war in Ukraine and Washington wishes to respond with sanctions, or if Moscow cuts off natural-gas supplies to Europe to punish it for supporting for Kyiv, American allies will need alternate sources of energy. Qatar, as one of the world’s largest natural-gas exporters, can provide just that. But, writes Gregg Roman, there are costs to allying with Doha, which is a major funder of Hamas and runs the anti-Semitic and anti-American Al Jazeera—while also housing an important U.S. air base:

Russian and Qatari foreign policy and economic priorities end up aligning more often than not, especially when anathema to American interests. Both engage with the Taliban. They now work together to support the Syrian government. Each has a close relationship with Iran and undermines U.S. interests there. The same can be said of China.

Directly, Qatar is heavily invested in a sanctioned Russian bank, placed a $11.3 billion investment to prop up Russia’s gas industry, and acquired a significant stake in one of Russia’s largest airports. Russia and Qatar are also similar in that that they both threaten America’s interests and its allies’ security. The former is clear about its hostility towards America; the latter is [craftier] in its influence operations against the U.S. and its leaders.

Russia is Europe’s worst violator of human rights; Qatar follows in the Middle East with its slave-labor system. . . . Putin assassinates critics seeking refuge in countries allied with the United States, imprisons his political opponents in gulags in Siberia, and hosts American traitors like Edward Snowden in Moscow. Tamim is no better, financing or playing host to terrorist organizations like Islamic State, Hizballah, the Houthis, the Taliban, and Hamas, all enemies of the United States and responsible for attacks on America’s allies, the deaths of American soldiers, and the harming of innocent civilians.

In addition to fast-tracking the export of American natural gas to Europe, Biden should bypass Qatar in favor of other friendly gas-exporting nations like Norway, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Qataris should be made to answer for their behavior, not rewarded, especially not at the expense of the U.S. and its allies.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Al Jazeera, Joseph Biden, Qatar, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine