Rejecting the Illusion that Qatar is “Rebranding” as a Moderate Actor in the Middle East

In recent months, a number of American and Israeli commentators have echoed statements by the Qatari government claiming that its continued support of radical Islamist groups—Hamas included—signifies a desire to mitigate, rather than encourage, their worst tendencies. This, Hussain Abdul-Hussain contends, is a “dangerous delusion.”

The truth is that Qatar’s sponsorship of radical groups has not moderated any of them, and does not reflect a recent “shift” in Doha’s foreign policy. If there has been any shift, it would be Qatar itself switching, some twenty years ago, from moderation to radicalism.

When Qatar was criticized for shuttling top Taliban leaders aboard its royal C-17 aircraft from Doha to Kabul in August last year, as they took over the country, Qatari leaders responded that their strong ties with the Afghan group would moderate policies of the new Taliban government.

In September, the Taliban announced that the “morality police” would replace the ministry of women. The Taliban also reinstated executions and amputations. In March, the radical Islamist group banned Afghan women from flying without male chaperones. This month, Taliban stopped issuing driving licenses for women, and this week decreed all women must veil their faces with the burqa.

If Qatar thought its strong ties with the Taliban would moderate the Afghani group, Doha better think again.

Read more at FDD

More about: Hamas, Jihadism, Qatar, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria