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

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas