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January 18, 2019 12:27 pm

Trump Can’t Devastate the Turkish Economy Because Bogus US Ally Qatar Will Save Erdogan Yet Again

avatar by Yigal Carmon

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Opinion

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Esenboga International Airport in Ankara, Turkey November 17, 2018. Photo: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS.

There have been inexplicable phenomena in the Middle East for some years now. Any attempt to explain them logically comes up against a dead end, and gives way to conspiracy theories. How can one logically explain both Israel’s and the United States’ prostration to Qatar? Theories range from the conspiratorial, such as Qatari infiltration of the two governments, to the seemingly implausible assumption that these governments and their agencies are simply naïfs, or are profoundly uninformed.

Let us list some examples: The United States is the only country that surpasses Israel in groveling to Qatar, despite the latter’s unending anti-US incitement, particularly against the current US administration. As far as the Al-Jazeera TV channel, owned by the Qatari emir, is concerned, the Democrats are the only legitimate party in the United States, and the few Republicans worthy of coverage are Senator Rand Paul — presented as a political heavyweight — and former Senator Bob Corker, whose decision to not seek re-election in 2018 was concealed from the viewers as if it were a trifle.

For years, the United States has felt indebted to Qatar for hosting the Al-Udeid airbase and CENTCOM headquarters. Pentagon chiefs and American political leaders come and go, and no one remembers that it is Qatar that is indebted to the United States for maintaining the base. Qatar originally built it, at a cost of $2 billion, to guarantee an American presence there, since without this presence the Qatari regime would have been devoured long ago. Today, faced with the threat of a Saudi or Emirati offer to the United States outdoing Qatar, Qatar is buying Pentagon goodwill by building an entire city to host the American servicemen’s dependents, and is expanding Al-Udeid. But this deal, that assures Qatar’s survival, has exacted a heavy price from the US. American fighter bombers are engaged in the Sisyphean task of setting out from Al-Udeid to strike at Islamic terrorists who were nurtured by Qatari propaganda — propaganda that cultivates a new crop of jihadis for the Americans to bomb — and the cycle continues.

Qatari TV lavished favorable coverage on Iran and Turkey, even though the former is a declared political target of US policy, and the latter, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, relentlessly spreads propaganda demonizing the United States and painting it as a sworn enemy. But no one has told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about this. On his current Middle East trip, Pompeo hailed Qatar as a “great friend.” He insisted on promoting a self-defeating policy of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) unity, including Qatar, against Iran, while Qatar’s regime-owned TV channel works ceaselessly to bring down the regimes of other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So what unity is Secretary Pompeo talking about, and how can he consider Qatar an ally? While he attempts to cobble together an anti-Iran front to curb Iran’s expansion, his “great friend” Qatar insists that “Iran, just like any other country, has legitimate interests” in Syria, as long as it does not disregard the interests of the Syrian people. Interestingly, the “great friend’s” Al-Jazeera TV has signed a cooperation agreement with the official Iranian news agency IRNA, whose managing director, Mohammad Khoddadi, visited Doha this summer, at the invitation of the Qatar Human Rights Committee, for a freedom of speech conference at which the major human rights violator Iran took a star turn.

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Moreover, President Trump wants to deter Turkey from striking the Kurds, and is warning them that he will devastate their economy. Erdogan phoned him, in an attempt to placate him, but should push come to shove, President Trump will find that he is unable bring Erdogan to heel. This is because the bogus US ally Qatar will save Turkey yet again from Trump’s sanctions, much as it did in 2018 when it tossed Erdogan an $18 billion lifeline, stopping the plunge of the Turkish lira, assuring Erdogan of funds to disburse in advance of the local elections, and prolonging the suffering of the captive Pastor Brunson. Another problem that Trump and Pompeo are ignoring is the Doha-Ankara military pact, under which Turkey may build bases in Qatar and may freely use Qatar’s airspace. Since the pact gives Turkey the right to operate freely in Qatari airspace, the freedom of the US Air Force at Al-Udeid will be limited. But is this the behavior of a “great friend” who depends on the United States for its very survival?

Qatar’s support for terrorism as it feigns opposition to it has been a fundamental element of Qatar’s political conduct since the Al-Thani clan took power in Qatar. MEMRI has exposed this duplicity in numerous reports. The following are just a few examples: In a live broadcast in November 2014, Al-Jazeera TV allowed Islamic scholar Hussein Muhammad Hussein to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (Islamic Scholar Pledges Allegiance to ISIS Emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Live on Al-Jazeera TV). A decade earlier, Al-Jazeera allowed the Iran-affiliated terrorist operative Anis Al-Naqqash to call for attacks on US oil facilities, also live (Terrorist Anis Al-Naqqash Calls on Al-Jazeera TV for Strikes against U.S. Oil Facilities).

In September 2017, Oman deported Indian cleric and ISIS supporter Salman Al-Nadwi for inciting against US President Trump and Saudi King Salman, and Qatar took him in. The next morning, he met in Qatar with the antisemitic, anti-US Muslim Brotherhood (MB) ideologue Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who has long enjoyed safe haven there, along with the freedom to spread his venom across the Muslim world on Al-Jazeera (see Oman Deports Indian Cleric Salman Al-Nadwi to Qatar after He Lambasted Saudi King and US President; see also In Letter, Leading Indian Islamic Scholar Maulana Salman Al-Nadwi Congratulates Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi On Assuming Role Of Caliph: “You Are Bravely Standing As A Rock).

Two months before 9/11, Al-Jazeera aired a program lionizing Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (Terror in America (30) Retrospective: A bin Laden Special on Al-Jazeera Two Months Before 9/11). A call-in from a supposedly random member of the audience who was actually Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu-Gheit made a recruiting pitch. Years later, in 2014, Al-Jazeera published a lengthy and sympathetic interview with Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, commander of Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria (see In Wide-Ranging Interview, Jabhat Al-Nusra Commander Al-Joulani Discusses Jihad in Syria, Declares: Our Conflict with ISIS Has Been Resolved). The list goes on and on (see Qatar, The Emirate That Fools Them All, And Its Enablers).

The US prostration to Qatar was understandable, though unwarranted, during the tenure of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, since he was known as Qatar’s man. Reportedly, during his time as CEO of Exxon-Mobil, he promoted the Qatari LNG project that transformed the Lilliputian Qatar into the gas Gulliver that it is today. But now that he has been replaced by Secretary Pompeo, the continuation of this pro-Doha policy is as inexplicable as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s courtship of Qatar.

Israel’s collusion with Qatar allows the latter to circumvent US law prohibiting bank transfers to Hamas — a designated terrorist organization according to both the United States and Israel — by sending cash in suitcases to Gaza. Israeli representatives justify this by insisting that Israel determines the recipients of these funds, and that Qatar is abiding by these Israeli instructions. But this is beyond pathetic. Gaza in its entirety is in the iron grip of Hamas, and Qatar’s cash shipments can go only to recipients designated by Hamas — and, indirectly, to Hamas itself. Just a few days ago, on January 11, 2019, Hamas offered $1 million to anyone who could reveal the identity of the Israeli soldiers who participated in the abortive November 2018 operation south of Gaza City. Where is this $1 million coming from? The Netanyahu government’s naiveté surpasses even the gullibility of the Labor government that preceded it — that trusted Yasser Arafat. Today, even Israel’s political center acknowledges that Arafat was fooling Israel from day one.

Furthermore, the Israeli government allows Qatari diplomat Muhammad Al-Imadi to move freely between Israel and Gaza, with no demand for diplomatic reciprocity — even though there was once an Israeli delegation in Doha that was shut down by the Qataris. Israel not only permits Al-Jazeera to operate in both Israel and the West Bank — it grants it special privileges, such as entry to Israeli army bases and interviews with army commanders, again with no demand for reciprocity. And all this goes on while Al-Jazeera, the Qatari propaganda channel, continues its unrelenting incitement and demonization of Israel and spews venom about US attempts to reconcile between Israel and the Gulf states.

It is inconceivable that in the fight against antisemitism, Israel itself is showing favoritism to an emirate, and a TV channel, that has given safe haven to, and showcased, one of the MB’s most notorious spiritual leaders, who called the Holocaust divine punishment for the Jews and added, “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers” — i.e., the Muslims (Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Allah Imposed Hitler Upon the Jews to Punish Them – “Allah Willing, the Next Time Will Be at the Hand of the Believers”).

This phenomenon of illogical actions on the part of both the United States and Israel vis-à-vis Qatar is bound to give rise to theories based on Qatar’s reputation as a country that can buy anyone or anything, including, reportedly, FIFA. It is noteworthy that Qatar has pledged to invest $45 billion in the United States over the next two years. Could this be inducing the United States to ignore its own strategic interests?

Whether out of ignorance or venality, America’s clinging to Qatar despite its anti-US actions dooms the Trump administration’s Middle East policy — just as the Obama administration’s Iran fixation doomed its Middle East policy. Likewise, Netanyahu will discover what is clear as day to everyone else — that his enabling of Qatar’s support for Hamas will backfire in the next Gaza war, at the cost of many Israeli lives.

Yigal Carmon is president of MEMRI.

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