Qatar’s foreign minister has said his country’s ability to be a global mediator and negotiate with armed groups in conflict zones such as Syria is being overshadowed by a negative, politically motivated public relations campaign.
Following a speech at Princeton University, Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah fielded a question from Reuters concerning Qatar’s recent role in freeing hostages from the al-Nusra Front in Syria. After telling the news agency that Qatar does not pay ransoms, Al Attiyah said:
“To the naked eye, Qatar might be a challenging case to fully understand, especially in the context of non-stop media bashing predicated by hired guns and a few lobbyists.”
His comments follow an investigation by US-based news website The Intercept that found the UAE government, which has been at odds with Qatar over this country’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, gave millions of dollars to an American consulting firm to lobby journalists and plant anti-Qatar stories in numerous US publications.
Qatar authorities have previously blamed negative media coverage of the country on “foreign conspiracies,” but failed to provide any evidence to support their claims.
While somewhat narrow in scope, The Intercept report provides a rare glimpse into the public relations assault levied on Qatar by the UAE – something analysts say this country has attempted to refute, in part, by drawing attention to more favorable parts of Qatar’s foreign policy.
In recent months, Qatar has faced allegations by journalists, the US government and even a German government minister that it funds ISIL, or at least allows its residents to privately finance the armed group.
Government officials have explicitly denied such affiliations and have introduced new laws that make it more difficult for charities to send funds abroad.
At the same time, Qatar has also attempted to improve its reputation and prove the country’s value among its allies by negotiating the release of dozens of hostages held in Syria. That includes the liberation of US journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who had been held captive by al-Nusra Front for nearly two years.
And in late May, Qatar agreed to host five Taliban prisoners who were exchanged by the US for a captured American soldier. It also negotiated the release from Syria of several Greek Orthodox nuns in March and nine Lebanese men last October.
Most recently, Qatar helped secure the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers who had been detained in Syria.
Analysts have previously told Doha News that Qatar has built up a complicated network of contacts with different groups in the region. This means that the Gulf country’s ability to secure the release of hostages extends beyond its financial resources.
While freeing the nuns earlier this year reportedly cost Qatar between US$4 million and $50 million, the US has said it asked the Gulf country not to pay a ransom in the more recent cases.
Al Attiyah said the issue is a matter of policy for the government:
“No, Qatar does not pay ransoms. Again, Qatar will not apologize for any soul or life we saved in Syria. If we can mediate to save another life we will do so … We don’t believe in paying ransoms. This is another way of fueling, if you may call it supporting through the backdoor, and this we don’t do … Sometimes criticised, this important and complicated role should neither be questioned nor taken for granted.”
If Qatar is truly saving lives through negotiation then full credit to them and well done. Now how about negotiating with the police to save lives on the roads in Qatar and building inspectors etc on building sites?
The safest one is also the most useful. This is one area where Qatar’s diplomacy is working.
Qatar is Sunni majority. ISIL is Sunni! When is (or have they already) come out and denounce the actions and ideology of this group (ISIL) that is spreading fear and hostility in the name of a good religion. Without publicly denouncing the actions and behavior of this group Qatar looks implicit!
I know this may be another subject but for that matter why dont Arab nations lead a coalition against these idiots to put them down and uphold the respectable image of Islam. Why do Arab nations allow these people run around and deface the religion. Why does the US need to lead a coalition. Arab nations need to have an interest in this. It makes no sense to me. I’m so confused about the whole thing.
The Foreign Minister of Qatar has repeatedly denounced the actions of ISIS, and Qatari officials have repeatedly stated, including the Emir of the country, that Qatar does not support radical Islamist groups. To some in the West, that is ironic since this country chooses to fund Hamas, and backs the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar sees a fundamental difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and ISIS.
On the other hand, there is proof that Qatari money landed in the wrong hands, most notably the al-Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. However, the same could be said for other countries such as Saudi Arabia. In their desperate bid to overthrow the Assad regime, certain violent Islamist groups were supported with money and weapons.
ISIS is a completely different story. What people fail to understand is that ISIS believes in the creation of an Islamic state, a caliphate, with its leader as the self-proclaimed caliph. That would mean the overthrow of the monarchy. The system of government in all the gulf states is, well, an absolute monarchy. Therefore, it would not be plausible to suggest that the Qatari government support ISIS whole-heartedly, because, well, that would mean supporting your downfall. Having said that, there is proof that perhaps the authorities turned a blind eye to supporters of ISIS in the country. Again, not unique to this country alone. Plenty of ISIS supporters have sprung up in Bahrain as well, and it is rumoured that a prominent former prison guard is a sympathiser. Why the authorities did this is unclear… Perhaps they thought if they let it happen, then ISIS wouldn’t bother them, I don’t know. But ISIS and the Gulf monarchy of Qatar are so fundamentally different that I really don’t think the government is a fan of this group.
Already, the al-Nusra front in Syria has threatened the USA and its Arab coalition, which includes Qatar, of waging a war against Islam.
This is a complex issue, with so many different layers to it, that there really is no simple answer. I stated what I know is fact, however, feel free to correct me. I tried to be as factual as possible 🙂
Wow! Thanks for the reply. Such an interesting soap opera in the Middle East. But I think it could and should be a lot more cut and dry than it is. Either you denounce the Hostile and evil nature of the ideology that ISIL, Al Quieda, and the Taliban teaches or you are telling me that you subscribe to these ideologies and in a round about way you approve of this violent behavior. It does nothing for world wide perception of Islam and makes you look very much implicit in the situation. I am not sure if this is due to some nuances of Arabic culture that an outsider will never understand but the political web that they weave makes them all look a little bit less than noble and almost criminal when you look at information that is available.
This stuff is more confusing than Quantum Physics.
Living in such a volatile region such as the Middle East means the safety and stability of your country is constantly under threat. As @desertCard said above, the Gulf is probably the ideal target for ISIS and other militant groups because of our so-called ‘westernization’. For the Gulf monarchies, the ends justify the means.
Qatar has itself had to adapt to the growing influence of Islamism in the region, and Saudi is a prime example of a country torn between reform and conceding to the Wahabists (not sure if that’s how it’s spelt). The best example of Qatar really walking a tight rope was during the UN, when the general assembly were voting on recognizing Palestine as a state. Qatar, a country that has constantly promised support for the Palestinian people (and Hamas), abstained from the vote. It wants to appease the West, and yet it also wants to protect itself from the wrath of radicalism.
This country is also the very first monarchy to establish relations with Israel, and remains the only. Gulf country to allow direct phone calls to Israel. Read some Israeli news sources like Haaretz and JPost… They paint an even more complicated picture of the different entanglements in the Gulf.
In the end, history will be the judge of the Gulf’s actions. And yeah, definitely more complicated than quantum physics
Also, the following a snippet from a Foreign Policy article:
It’s unlikely that the Qatari government — or any Gulf state — ever backed the Islamic State, an organization that today has in its cross-hairs all of the U.S.-allied monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula, and vice versa. But as in Jamal’s case, some of the individuals who benefited from Qatari funds did go on to join more radical brigades, taking their experience and arms with them.
It’s easy to find. Just type it into the google search bar.
ISIS is a threat to all the monarchies and regimes of the Middle East because it holds them all to be self-serving and corrupt, and their aim is to see them removed. Therefore none of the regimes support ISIS, and when supporting the original rebels none of them forsaw the rise of such an ultra-extremist and backward-thinking organisation.
To think that Qatar, and the Gulf in general, doesn’t in some way protect, finance and/or tolerate these groups I think is naive. What other place in the middle east idealizes, and comes as close to being, the west other than the gulf? Why hasn’t there been anything of terrorist nature in any of the gulf countries? US Air, Navy and Army bases throughout but nothing? My opinion only, is there has to be some sort of “understanding” or this place is would be the ideal targets.
“While freeing the nuns earlier this year reportedly cost Qatar between US$4 million and $50 million, the US has said it asked the Gulf country not to pay a ransom in the more recent cases…”
Isn’t that a ransom?
I would find it weird beyond belief to find that Qatar supports IS, given that as a nation Qatar invites people of all races, religions and ways of life to live and work here, and offers a more open society than some of its neighbours. Should non-Muslims and non- Sunnis be afraid to be out in Qatar? If there are individuals who hold sympathies for this, in my opinion, abhorrent group of thugs, I hope they are held in check, but would point out that such individuals apparently exist in most other countries too, so Qatar isn’t singularly culpable. I would also add that I am impressed by Qatar’s efforts in securing releases, and other negotiating efforts. Don’t let the disillusioned and foolish elements tarnish your image further
Well done Qatar. http://hornseaholidaycottages.co.uk
I am pretty sure that Qatar does not support ISIL or any similar ultra-extremists. But it did support the original rebel movement, and what Qatar can rightly be accused of in the last few years it is that it fails to understand the true mood of peoples and countries and fails miserably to forsee the wider consequences of it’s actions. Hence the revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the opening for ISIS in Syria and Iraq that it (and KSA) unwittingly created. Add to that the human rights issues, the Kafala, and the award of WC2022 and it is fair to say that Qatar’s ability to gain the trust of the wider world has been damaged irrepairably. I think the UAE actions are disgraceful but that doesn’t change the fact that what the wider media has done is simply highlighted Qatar’s self-inflicted wounds.