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

May 12, 2022 | Hussain Abdul-Hussain
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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.

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