July 9, 2024 | Flash Brief

Citing Hamas Links, Draft Defense Bill Pushes for Review of U.S.-Qatar Relations

July 9, 2024 | Flash Brief

Citing Hamas Links, Draft Defense Bill Pushes for Review of U.S.-Qatar Relations

Latest Developments

U.S. concern over Qatar’s relationship with Hamas is reflected in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released on July 9. Specifically, section 1287 of the bill would require the secretary of defense to “submit a report and provide a briefing to the congressional defense committees on the operational value of al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, taking into consideration the relationship of the Government of Qatar with Hamas and other terrorist organizations.” Hosting an estimated 10,000 U.S. troops, al-Udeid is the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East and the location of U.S. Central Command’s forward headquarters.

Section 1546 of the bill would also direct the secretary of defense and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency to “jointly provide to the Government of Israel defense intelligence, advice, and support” in order to “support Israel’s pursuit of the lasting defeat of Hamas, to assist in either capturing or killing senior Hamas officials.” A committee report accompanying the draft NDAA directs the secretary of defense to “urge his Qatari counterparts to expel senior Hamas officials” if Hamas refuses reasonable negotiations.

Expert Analysis

“Securing America’s interests in the Middle East requires the forward-basing of U.S. forces in the region, but Congress should ensure that our military presence in Qatar is not being used as leverage to soften U.S. policy toward a government that has such close and troubling ties to a designated terrorist organization. There are operational and strategic reasons to ensure that any U.S. military capabilities in Qatar are replicated in other countries in the region, and Congress should ensure that contingency plans are in place should a move out of Qatar become necessary.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Qatar has been a conduit for maintaining a line of communication with terror groups such as the Taliban and Hamas. U.S. policy has been to permit Qatar to host these organizations with the understanding that there would be a meaningful benefit to regional security. It is clear Qatar has not extracted any concessions from these terror groups while allowing them to hold bank accounts and granting asylum to their leaders. Qatar cannot point to a single tangible achievement that has been accomplished by this policy, and so wholesale change is needed.” — Tyler Stapleton, Director of Congressional Relations, FDD Action

“Nine months after October 7, with eight Americans still held among the hostages, it’s mind-boggling the United States hasn’t already started a formal review of its bilateral relationship with Hamas-sponsoring Qatar, including the potential of departure from al-Udeid.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Qatar Enables Hamas

Qatar sided with Hamas and endorsed its takeover of Gaza in 2007. Since then, Doha has provided political and financial assistance to the Islamist group, pumping at least $1.8 billion into Gaza’s Hamas-run government. Hamas also maintains a political office in Doha, where several of the group’s senior leaders live in luxury. Despite enabling Hamas and holding “Israel alone responsible” for Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack, Qatar has positioned itself as a mediator between Hamas and Israel with the assent of the United States.

U.S.-Qatar Relationship Under Congressional Scrutiny

President Joe Biden designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally in 2022. However, since October 7, several U.S. lawmakers have heaped pressure on the administration to downgrade U.S.-Qatar relations given Doha’s support for Hamas. On May 1, Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Jared Golden (D-ME) introduced the bipartisan Reviewing Qatar’s Major Non-NATO Ally Status Act, accompanying a companion bill that was introduced in the Senate on April 10 by Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC).If enacted, the bill would force the secretary of state to certify that Qatar exerts pressure on Hamas to release Israeli and American hostages. Qatar would also need to halt directly or indirectly supporting Hamas and agree to extradite to the United States any individuals determined to be members of Hamas. If Qatar fails to meet the guidelines, the legislation will direct the State Department to terminate Qatar’s major non-NATO ally status. 

10 Things to Know About Hamas and Qatar,” FDD Insight

Qatar Not an Honest Broker, New Report Concludes,” FDD Flash Brief

Stop With the Nice Words on Qatar,” by Jonathan Schanzer

Issues:

Gulf States Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power