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Qatar and U.S.: Collusion or Conflict of Interests

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By Nicola Nasser**

In his inaugural address on January 21, U.S. President Barak Obama made the historic announcement that "a decade of war is ending" and declared his country's determination to "show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully," but his message will remain words that have yet to be translated into deeds and has yet to reach some of the U.S. closest allies in the Middle East who are still beating the drums of war, like Israel against Iran and Qatar against Syria.

 

In view of the level of "coordination" and "cooperation" since bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1972 between the U.S. and Qatar, and the concentration of U.S. military power on this tiny peninsula, it seems impossible that Qatar could move independently apart, in parallel with, away or on a collision course with the U.S. strategic and regional plans.

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According to the US State department's online fact sheet, "bilateral relations are strong," both countries are "coordinating" diplomatically and "cooperating" on regional security, have a "defense pact," "Qatar hosts CENTCOM Forward Headquarters," and supports NATO and U.S. regional "military operations. Qatar is also an active participant in the U.S. -- led efforts to set up an integrated missile defense network in the Gulf region. Moreover, it hosts the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center and three American military bases namely Al Udeid Air Base , Assaliyah Army Base and Doha International Air Base , which are manned by approximately 5,000 U.S. forces.

 

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Qatar , which is bound by such a most intimate and closest alliance with the United States, has recently developed into the major sponsor of Islamist political movements. Qatar appears now to be the major sponsor of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which, reportedly, disbanded in Qatar in 1999 because it stopped to view the ruling family as an adversary.

 

The Qatar --Brotherhood marriage of convenience has created the natural incubator of Islamist armed fundamentalists against whom the U.S., since September 11, 2001, has been leading what is labeled as the "global war on terrorism."

 

The war in the African nation Mali offers the latest example on how the U.S. and Qatar, seemingly, go on two separate ways. Whereas US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, was in London on January 18 "commending" the French "leadership of the international effort" in Mali to which his country was pledging logistical, transportation and intelligence support, Qatar appeared to risk its special ties with France, which peaked during the NATO -- led war on Libya, and to distrust the U.S. and French judgment.

 

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On January 15, Qatari Prime and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, told reporters he did not believe "power will solve the problem," advised instead that this problem be "discussed" among the "neighboring countries, the African Union and the (U.N.) Security Council," and joined the Doha -- based ideologue for the Muslim Brotherhood and their Qatari sponsors, Yusuf Abdullah al -- Qaradawi -- the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars who was refused entry visa to U.K. in 2008 and to France last year -- in calling for "dialogue," "reconciliation" and "peaceful solution" instead of "military intervention."

 

In a relatively older example, according to WikiLeaks, Somalia's former president in 2009, Sharif Ahmed, told a U.S. diplomat that Qatar was channeling financial assistance to the al-Qaeda -- linked Shabab al-Mujahideen, which the U.S. listed as "terrorist."

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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