The remarkable truth is that few in the Middle East would be shocked. From Hamas in the Gaza Strip to radical armed movements in Syria, Qatar’s status as a prime sponsor of violent Islamists, including groups linked to al-Qaeda, is clear to diplomats and experts.
Qatar’s promotion of extremism has so infuriated its neighbours that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all chose to withdraw their ambassadors from the country in March.
Take Syria, where Qatar has been sponsoring the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In itself, that policy places Qatar alongside the leading Western powers and much of the Arab world.
But Qatar has deliberately channeled guns and cash towards Islamist rebels, notably a group styling itself Ahrar al-Sham, or “Free Men of Syria”. Only last week, Khalid al-Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister, praised this movement as “purely” Syrian.
He added that its fighters had suffered heavy losses while combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), the group behind the murder of David Haines, the British aid worker, and which is holding John Cantlie and Alan Henning hostage.
Far from being a force for moderation, Ahrar al-Sham played a key role in transforming the anti-Assad revolt into an Islamist uprising. Its men fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate, during the battle for Aleppo and they were accused of at least one sectarian massacre.
Instead of fighting Isil, Ahrar al-Sham helped the jihadists to run Raqqa, the town in eastern Syria that is now the capital of the self-proclaimed “Caliphate”. This cooperation with Isil happened for some months until the two groups fell out last year.
Last December, the US Treasury designated a Qatari academic and businessman, Abdul Rahman al-Nuaimi, as a “global terrorist”. The US accused him of sending nearly £366,000 to “al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria”, named as Abu Khalid al-Suri.
Suri has also been a senior commander of Ahrar al-Sham. If America was right to describe him as “al-Qaeda’s representative”, then there was an overlap between the leadership of the two groups.
All of these guys are in bed together. We have no way of knowing what kind of back-door deals they have with each other. They may “fight” among themselves, and even kill people, but remember that life means nothing to these people. Killing a few (or more than a few) people in the ranks simply does not matter if it advances the Jihad. They’ll butcher their own as long as it moves the Caliphate forward.
Who is going to gainsay them? This is why we can’t fund the “Free Syrian Army”. They are all just wings of the Jihad. They are all just aspects of the real confrontation. You can’t trust any of them.
We keep making the mistake of believing that our enemies have the same morals and values as we do. They do not.
They tell us this, and we wave that away as if it doesn’t matter. They can’t really mean what they say. They say they love death. They really do. They mean what they say. They aren’t even bothering to lie to us, because they know we will deceive ourselves into believing lies that they haven’t even told us. This is important.