January 18, 2017 | Monograph

Qatar and Terror Finance

FDD Press

Download the full report here. 

Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani abdicated as the emir of Qatar in June of 2013, making his son Tamim the youngest ruler in the Arab world.[1] Hamad’s reign was characterized by persistent negligence toward local U.S.-designated funders of al-Qaeda, but some American officials have expressed hope that Emir Tamim would turn over a new leaf in Qatar’s approach to tackling terror finance.[2] Three years into Tamim’s new regime, however, its record is still conspicuously incomplete.

It is particularly vital to evaluate Qatar’s record on terror finance in light of the Nusra Front’s July 2016 decision to rebrand itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which purports to have “no relationship with any foreign party.”[3] According to sources cited by Reuters, Qatar led an effort starting in 2015 to bolster the Syrian opposition by persuading Nusra to distance itself from al-Qaeda.[4] Reuters reported that intelligence officials from Qatar and other Gulf states met several times with Nusra’s leader around this period to suggest that his group could receive money, arms, and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaeda.[5] Yet the more JFS legitimates itself by integrating into the broader Syrian opposition, the greater the risk of a permanent al-Qaeda army on Europe’s doorstep.[6]

This report is Part Two of a three-part series on Qatar’s record dealing with terrorist finance and its practitioners. Part One outlined Doha’s dismal record at punishing funders of terror throughout Emir Hamad’s reign.[7] This document evaluates the publicly available evidence on Qatar’s record since then, focusing primarily on individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2015. All of these sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014, as part of a U.S.-led initiative called the Jeddah Communiqué, to bring terror financiers to justice.[8] The cases should therefore be seen as a measuring stick for recent Qatari conduct.

Based on these cases, there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook. Indeed, it is impossible to identify even a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a U.S.- or UN-designated individual. Officials at Qatar's Embassy in Washington and its Government Communications Office in Doha declined to respond to repeated requests to identify any such example in time for a deadline for this report. 

According to Washington, Qatar has finally pressed charges against some terror financiers, but those individuals have yet to be identified by name.[9] Meanwhile, America’s top official for combating terror finance recently revealed that the funders of certain terrorist groups still enjoy legal impunity there.[10] Nusra/JFS appears to be foremost among them.

Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Daniel Ackerman, Erin Blumenthal, Rafi Danziger, David Daoud, Toby Dershowitz, Mark Dubowitz, Yaya Fanusie, Clifford May, John Hannah, Thomas Joscelyn, Bill Roggio, Nicole Salter, Jonathan Schanzer, Nathan Siegel, Rachel Singer, and two outstanding outside peer readers for their constructive advice or support on this report. Any errors are the author’s sole responsibility. No information in this report came to the author’s attention from foreign governments or their agents except for the Joumhouriya news article cited in footnote 166 and the Camstoll Group report cited in footnote 210 below.

[1] Aryn Baker, “Qatar’s Leadership Shake-Up: Powerful Emir to Step Down for 33-Year-Old Son,” Time, June 24, 2013. (http://world.time.com/2013/06/24/qatars-leadership-shakeup-powerful-emir-to-step-down-for-33-year-old-son/)

[2] White House, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Ben Rhodes, 4/21/2016,” April 21, 2016. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/21/press-briefing-press-secretary-josh-earnest-and-ben-rhodes-4212016); U.S. Treasury official cited in Hardin Lang, Peter Juul, and Trevor Sutton, “Confronting the Terror Finance Challenge in Today’s Middle East,” Center for American Progress, November 2015, pages 16 and 34. (https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/01155949/TerrorFinance2-report-10.pdf); Taimur Khan, “US names two Qatari nationals as financiers of terrorism,” The National (UAE), August 6, 2015. (http://www.thenational.ae/world/americas/us-names-two-qatari-nationals-as-financiers-of-terrorism)

[3] Orient News, “قائد جبهة النصرة ابو محمد الجولاني يعلن رسميا فك الارتباط مع تنظيم القاعدة واقامة كيان جديد (Leader of Nusra Front Abu Mohammad Al-Jaulani Officially Declares Breaking Ties with Al-Qaeda Organization and Establishing a New Entity),” YouTube, July 28, 2016, 2:33-2:50. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oossAtDYbrs&feature=youtu.be&t=2m33s)

[4] Miriam Karouny, “Insight – Syria's Nusra Front may leave Qaeda to form new entity,” Reuters, March 4, 2015. (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-nusra-insight-idUKKBN0M00G620150304); Tom Finn, “Qatar's channel to militants possibly dangerous, possibly useful,” Reuters, December 18, 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-qatar-idUSKBN0U11O220151218)

[5] Ibid.; Lisa Barrington and Suleiman al-Khalidi, “Al Qaeda tells Syrian branch Nusra Front it can drop links,” Reuters, July 28, 2016. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-nusra-front-idUSKCN10819R); Raja Abdulrahim, “Nusra Front Says It Has Severed Ties With al Qaeda,” Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2016. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/leading-syrian-rebel-group-severs-al-qaeda-ties-1469727676)

[6] Colin P. Clarke and Barak Mendelsohn, “Commentary: Al Qaeda’s ruthless pragmatism makes it more dangerous than Islamic State,” Reuters, October 27, 2016. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-counterterrorism-commentary-idUSKCN12R0AL)

[7] David Andrew Weinberg, “Qatar and Terror Finance – Part 1: Negligence,” FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, December 2014. (https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/defenddemocracy/uploads/publications/Qatar_Part_I.pdf)

[8] U.S. Department of State, “Jeddah Communique,” September 11, 2014. (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/09/231496.htm)

9 Daniel S. Glaser speaking The Washington Institute on October 12, 2016. Washington Institute, “The Evolution of Terrorist Financing: Disrupting the Islamic State,” YouTube, October 25, 2016, 41:35-41:50. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHzYH0IIq-8&feature=youtu.be&t=41m35s)

[10] Adam Szubin, “The Johns Hopkins University Paul. H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Holds a Discussion on Combating Terrorist Financing,” October 20, 2016. (Transcript provided by CQ Transcripts, accessed via Nexis).



Al Qaeda Syria