Qatar’s links with Al-Qaeda network in Iran
A key demand by the Arab Coalition to Qatar has been to significantly curtail Doha’s alleged ties with Tehran’s external security and intelligence entities, specifically the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash was quoted Saturday as saying: “Qatar seeks to promote an Iranian agenda.”
Some analysts in the West have scoffed at demands for Qatar to stop alleged cooperation with Iran. But they have conveniently overlooked the fact that of all the Gulf countries, only Qatar has reportedly maintained historically deep security and intelligence cooperation with Tehran.
Beyond normal bilateral commercial ties, Qatar reportedly began strengthening its security coordination with Tehran since the 2010 visit to Doha by Iran’s hard-line then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian nexus extends to the case of Tehran-based senior Al-Qaeda operatives and their alleged Qatari financiers. A review of nearly 50 US Treasury Department-designated senior Al-Qaeda financial facilitators reveals damning connections between the Tehran Al-Qaeda network and Qatar-linked terror operatives.
At the center of the Qatar-Al-Qaeda-Iran trifecta is Qatari national Salim Khalifa Al-Kuwari. He was designated by the US as a senior Al-Qaeda facilitator and financier who to this day lives and operates in Doha. Al-Kuwari, according to US intelligence, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to the Al-Qaeda cell in Iran headed by Muhsin Al-Fadhli.
Breaking Qatar’s reported terror links to Iran benefits all parts of the world that have been victimized by the terror masterminds to whom Tehran and Doha have allegedly offered a blank check for too long.
Al-Kuwari also reportedly facilitated travel for extremist recruits on behalf of senior Al-Qaeda facilitators based in Iran, and was a central link for Al-Qaeda leaders based in Tehran to funnel money, messages and fighters from South Asia into the Middle East. Another reportedly crucial Qatari financier of Al-Qaeda’s terror activities is Khalifa Muhammad Turki Al-Subaiy, who also operates in Doha and was a major source of funding to a senior lieutenant to Al-Fadhli.
Al-Subaiy provided millions of dollars for nearly a decade to Al-Qaeda’s Khorasan group in Syria that was established by Al-Fadhli while he was in Iran, according to Western intelligence sources and US Treasury Department designations. Doha actively lobbied Lebanon to release of one Al-Subaiy’s key moneymen Abdul Aziz bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah after he was briefly detained in Lebanon in 2012.
Then you have Tariq Al-Harzi, a senior Daesh facilitator who was singlehandedly responsible for years for recruiting and moving European foreign fighters. According to the US Treasury Department, in 2013 he arranged for Daesh to receive approximately $2 million from a Qatar-based financial facilitator. Reportedly, Al-Harzi played an important role with fundraising efforts in Qatar, and Doha did nothing to curb these activities.
One of the Khorasan group’s most notorious leaders is Mohammed Shawqi Al-Islambouli, a longtime Al-Qaeda operative and brother of the terrorist who assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Al-Islambouli was based for a time in Tehran and is very close to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, according to reports.
Doha has reportedly hosted Al-Islambouli on numerous occasions for officially sanctioned events. He took to social media recently to praise Qatar, begging the question: Why did one of Al-Qaeda’s most senior operators and a longtime Tehran resident feel obliged to come to Qatar’s defense?
Holding officials responsible for such terror plotting to account is not a political matter but an urgent national security imperative. Thus breaking Qatar’s reported terror links to Iran benefits all parts of the world that have been victimized by the terror masterminds to whom Tehran and Doha have allegedly offered a blank check for too long.
• Oubai Shahbandar is a former Department of Defense senior adviser, and currently a strategic communications consultant specializing in Middle Eastern and Gulf affairs.