Al-Qaeda-Linked Jihadi in Syria Comments on the Gulf Crisis

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 June 2017

Abdallah al-Muhaysini

A major diplomatic crisis has erupted between the Gulf states, pitting Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar because of what these states claim is Qatar’s destabilizing behaviour.[1] On 5 June, Abdallah al-Muhaysini, identified last year by the U.S. government as a senior member of al-Qaeda in Syria, put out a message on Telegram effectively taking Qatar’s side, arguing that the campaign against Qatar was an American-orchestrated conspiracy against a government that had supported Muslims, i.e. Islamists.[2] The message is republished below with some syntactical and spelling edits.

***

Why Qatar?

When Turkey was not even finished with healing its wounds after the military coup against it, this geography woke up to a new siege and coup on its way. This time it is Qatar’s turn.

The first and second one is done with the flag of America. While Turkey clearly said that their regime is democratic and they are tightly connected to it.

Question: What is the reason that America wants to take down the government of [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, while he does not talk about bringing the shari’a?

Answer: America uses their “protection of democracy” to hide their real reason. They are making war, directly or by proxy, for this reason.

The reason is to punish the persons who are concerned with the plight of the umma [Muslim community of nation], no matter with what [other] purpose it is, and don’t accept total obedience and humiliation. They inflict the siege and coup upon him. Sometimes with the excuse of fighting terrorism …

This is why they chose Qatar, because they are standing together with the wounded people from Syria and Gaza. They used the most disgusting torture and death against them.

The things we mentioned are clear, but some of the people are trying to hide the truth.

Dr Abdallah al-Muhaysini

***

Notes

[1] This is a long-running dispute, and the last major flare-up was in March 2014, when the three Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, alleging that Qatar was interfering in their internal affairs and had reneged on an agreement signed in November 2013 that promised it would cease doing so.

Qatar has supported Islamists throughout the region and, as Hassan Hassan reported at the time, when the Gulf states presented a framework agreement to Qatar in April 2014 for the restoration of relations, a key demand was that Qatar cease such support, specifically to the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar was to halt its support for the Brethren particularly in Syria and Libya, Brotherhood operatives were to be expelled from Qatar, and Qatar was to cease naturalizing Islamists who had left other Gulf countries and providing them with platforms to agitate against the Gulf countries. Indeed, Qatar’s media in general was to be reined in.

Though this Gulf schism is often presented through the lens of the Saudi-Iran rivalry—or even in terms of sectarianism—the reality is that Qatar’s more conciliatory relations with the Iranian theocracy are not in and of themselves the problem. Qatar shares a gas field with Tehran, so has to have a degree of economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic, and this is seen elsewhere with states like Oman and emirates like Dubai.

The problem comes with things like Qatar’s support for the Iran-backed Huthis in Yemen, which in 2014 was held to be undermining the political process that was then-underway and which was effectively terminated by the Huthis’ coup in September 2014. (The Gulf states intervened militarily in March 2015 to try to get the political transition back online.)

There is also the bizarre saga of the Qatari royals who were kidnapped in Iraq in December 2015 and freed in April 2017. The “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as one Gulf official put it, was the deal Qatar made to free its citizens that involved ransom payments to what is now Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria, whose relationship with al-Qaeda is contested but whose extremism is not, and Kataib Hizballah, an Iranian proxy militia from Iraq that murdered and wounded hundreds of Western soldiers over the past decade and is a key participant in the Iranian-orchestrated Shi’a jihad that has rescued Bashar al-Assad. The deal also encompassed a “population exchange” from al-Fua and Kafraya on the one side and Madaya and Zabadani on the other, regarded by many as an incident of sectarian ethnic cleansing.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt severed relations with Qatar late on 4 June and the Saudi Arabian government imposed a blockade by shutting down the one land-crossing into Qatar. The Gulf states claim that Qatar has not lived up to the agreement it made.

Essentially reiterating what was said in 2014, the Gulf states have issued four non-negotiable demands, according to Sultan al-Qassemi, and are prepared for a protracted crisis:

  1. The complete closure of Al-Jazeera and The New Arab, headed by Azmi Bishara, now a Qatari citizen and previously an Arab citizen of Israel, who fled after an investigation was opened against him because he is suspected of providing Hizballah with intelligence during the war it started with Israel in Lebanon in 2006. There are a number of other media stations—the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, the online Arabic outlet Arabi 21, the London-based website Middle East Eye, the Arabic version of Huffington Post (headed by Waddah Khanfar, former Al-Jazeera executive), and Al-Khaleej Al-Jadeed (The New Gulf)—have all been singled out for criticism on Gulf television stations, too, and the Saudi-led bloc is demanding a cessation of incitement against the Egyptian dictatorship for having come to power via a coup against the elected government of Muhammad Morsi.
  2. The expulsion of all Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including those from its Palestinian wing, HAMAS, plus figures like Bishara and Islamist writer Yasser al-Za’atra.
  3. An end to the abuse of charities within Qatar to funnel money to Islamists and jihadists in the region.
  4. Redress of Qatar’s over-warm embrace of Tehran at a time when the other Gulf states are working to contain and isolate the Iranian revolution.

[2] It is notable that al-Muhaysini was not the only jihadist who spoke up for Qatar. Saleh al-Hamawi recently started a hashtag campaign on Twitter in support of Qatar against its neighbours. Al-Hamawi was one of the operatives dispatched by the Islamic State into Syria to set up Jabhat al-Nusra in 2011, but he has since run afoul of al-Nusra’s leadership and was expelled from al-Nusra in July 2015.

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