(Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2017) — Qatar remains inexcusably negligent in its efforts to halt terror finance, lacking the political will to punish terror financiers that have operated in its territory, according to a report issued today by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The report, “Qatar and Terror Finance (Part II): Private Funders of al-Qaeda in Syria,” is the second of a three-part series on Qatar’s troubling record.
Al-Qaeda in Syria is the global jihadist group’s largest branch in history. The U.S. government confirmed in November that despite the Nusra Front’s name change, it remains al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise. It is still plotting attacks against the West.
Doha has not taken visible legal action against any of the group’s Qatar-based financiers, even though they are under United States and United Nations sanctions, writes the report’s author, FDD Senior Fellow David Andrew Weinberg. By irresponsibly neglecting this problem, Qatar is undermining international security by appearing to let egregious acts of terror finance go unpunished.
Weinberg documents five cases of individuals who were based out of Qatar and accused of illicit finance. All of them were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in late 2014 or 2015 on charges of funding terror. These sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014 to the Jeddah Communiqué, a U.S.-led initiative in which Doha pledged to bring terror financiers to justice.
Qatar has yet to show it has taken legal action to punish even just one of these five men, either in person or in absentia. The five are: Ashraf ‘Abd al-Salam, ‘Abd al-Malik ‘Abd al-Salam, Ibrahim al-Bakr, Sa’d bin Sa’d al-Ka’bi, and ‘Abd al-Latif al-Kawari.
“When it comes to supporting the United States by clearly going after terrorist financiers, Qatar is not a good ally,” Weinberg said. “Qatar has gotten by with half measures and handled the fallout like a public relations nuisance, paying spin doctors and lobbyists to press its interests in Washington instead, increasing its spending in this area tenfold.”
Weinberg recommends Congress take steps that would empower the executive branch to punish foreign governments that refuse to consistently crack down on terror finance and its practitioners.
He also recommends the United States boost its leverage by shifting some personnel and equipment out of Qatar and building an alternative Combined Air and Space Operations Center outside of the tiny Gulf country.
Finally, Weinberg recommends the U.S. increase the pace of designations against Qatar-based terrorist financial facilitators and be prepared to publicly push for the extradition of key individuals on U.S. or U.N. sanctions lists if Qatari authorities fail to take appropriate action.
During a major address on terrorism in August, “President-elect Trump promised to ‘decimate al-Qaeda,’ but achieving that goal will be impossible without choking off the funding of al-Qaeda’s most powerful branch, which has continued to flow out of Qatar,” Weinberg said.
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The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at www.defenddemocracy.org and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.