Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush issued a blunt demand to Afghanistan’s Islamist dictators, who had long sheltered Al Qaeda’s top officials.
“Turn [Osama bin Laden] over,” the president said. “Turn him over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over, destroy all the terrorist camps. … This is nonnegotiable.”
In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel, President Biden should be issuing a similar message to Qatar. The rich Persian Gulf sheikhdom has for years underwritten Hamas’s control of Gaza, funded its killing operations, and shielded its senior leadership. That makes it a key collaborator in what Biden called the “pure, unadulterated evil” of the barbaric Oct. 7 slaughter of at least 1,300 Israelis and the abduction of at least 199 hostages.
Israel was the foremost target of the bloody Hamas rampage, but those killed by the terrorists included 30 US citizens too. As many as 13 Americans may be among the captives held in Gaza. Which means, as Biden said, that the campaign to destroy Hamas is necessary not just for Israel’s welfare but for “the security of the United States.”
It is time to put an end to Qatar’s pro-Hamas duplicity. The president’s visit this week to Israel provides the right opportunity to say so.
Many Americans know that Iran’s Islamist regime is a major sponsor of terror and has provided weapons, training, and logistical support to Hamas. The State Department has reported that Iran provides about $100 million annually to an array of terrorist groups, Hamas among them.
But Qatar’s role is even more sinister.
To begin with, Hamas’s main headquarters and top leaders are located in Doha, the Qatari capital. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, resides in Qatar. So does Izzat Al-Risheq, who oversees Hamas’s media operations. Neither the regime in Doha nor Hamas makes any secret of the fact that Qatar harbors some of the worst terrorists on earth. “Footage last week showed Haniyeh, 61, smiling and praying from the comfort of his air-conditioned Doha office to celebrate the slaughter of Israelis,” The Telegraph reported this week. “In the video, Haniyeh and 12 of his henchmen are seen dressed in freshly pressed suits as they watch the horror unfold on a widescreen TV.”
Qatar’s financial underwriting of Hamas far exceeds that of Iran. Since 2018, it has reportedly provided $30 million in cash per month to the thugs who rule Gaza. In 2021, Qatar started shipping $10 million worth of fuel to Gaza each month; proceeds from the sale of the fuel are used to pay as many as 50,000 Hamas operatives.
In short, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir and dictator of Qatar, is the main foreign enabler of Hamas. Even more than Iran, it is he who facilitated Hamas’s military empire in the Gaza Strip. Yet he escapes obloquy because Qatar is treated as an American ally. Al Thani simultaneously presents himself as a loyal friend to the United States and a loyal backer of those who murder US citizens. On Oct. 13, he hosted Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Doha, joining him at a press conference during which the American warned that “there can be no more business as usual with Hamas.” One day later, it was Iran’s foreign minister who was in Doha, where he met with Haniyeh and praised the Hamas leader for the “historic victory” achieved by killing so many Jews.
The double game played by Qatar is morally abominable. It’s also a slap in the face to the United States and to the Biden administration, which last year rewarded Qatar with the designation of “major non-NATO ally.” Whatever justification there may have been for such complacency in the past, it vanished on Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen unleashed a bloodbath in Israel, killing and kidnapping dozens of Americans in the process.
Biden needs to deliver a “nonnegotiable” ultimatum to Qatar, just as Bush did to the rulers of Afghanistan in 2001: Extradite the Hamas commanders who are in Doha so that they can be brought to justice for the American blood on their hands. Refuse to do so, Al Thani ought to be told, and there will be stiff consequences: Qatar will promptly be redesignated as a state sponsor of terrorism. All military sales will be canceled. The US Air Force assets based at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base will be relocated. And more repercussions will follow.
Qatar’s ruler must choose: Does he stand with the terrorists or with us? For too long he has had it both ways. No more.