What will it take for us to stop doing business with Qatar?

We’ve let the desert state face both ways on funding extremism

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

On 17 June, a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society, held in the House of Commons, discussed (according to the minutes published on the society’s website) how a tribal elder in northern Cameroon who runs a car import business in Qatar has become one of the main intermediaries between kidnappers from Boko Haram and its offshoot Ansaru and those seeking to free hostages. It was alleged that embezzlement of funds going to Qatar via car imports might be disguising ransom payments. It was also alleged that Qatar was involved in financing Islamist militant groups in West Africa, helping with weapons and ideological training, and (with Saudi Arabia) funding the building of mosques in Mali and Nigeria that preach a highly intolerant version of Islam.

This was far from the only time such accusations have been levelled. Yet Qatar is supposed to be one of our allies, supporting air strikes against the Islamic State. Its ruler even thinks his enormous wealth entitles him to blag his way into Her Majesty’s carriage at Royal Ascot. Given Qatar’s questionable role in the current tide of savage Islamism, should its ruler be allowed anywhere near our Queen? And should they be allowed to buy up our country, as they have done relentlessly since the crash of 2008?

After the overthrow of President Morsi of Egypt, Qatar became a place of refuge for the Muslim Brotherhood. However, on 12 September it asked several leading Brotherhood figures to leave. They duly did, not in outrage or indignation, but apologising for causing embarrassment. Clearly, they felt a debt to the Qataris, and a senior Brotherhood spokesman, Amr Darrag, said what it was. He issued a statement thanking Qataris for their support to ‘the Egyptian people in their revolution against the military junta’.

Qatar asked its former friends to leave because of pressure applied by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Some may come to London: there is already a group of Brotherhood members in Cricklewood, under scrutiny from the authorities. But even now, Qatar remains home to an array of exiled Islamists, and thus a focus of suspicion to its neighbours. Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia and the UAE in withdrawing its ambassador from Doha this spring. It has been widely reported that Qatari money funds extremists in Libya, and when these ambassadors were recalled, the Zionist Organisation of America asked the US government to declare Qatar a state sponsor of terrorism.

The Emir of Qatar’s personal fortune and the country’s sovereign wealth fund are rumoured to amount to £50 billion. Qataris own substantial amounts of real estate — such as the Shard, the Olympic Village, One Hyde Park, a part of Canary Wharf, the United States Embassy building in Grosvenor Square, the Chelsea Barracks development and Harrods. They have large stakes in the stock exchange, Sainsburys and Barclays bank. Almost all Britain’s liquefied natural gas comes from Qatar, accounting for a quarter of our gas needs. The desert state has also bought the 2022 World Cup — rather like playing a cricket Test series at the South Pole — in a fashion so seemingly corrupt that there have been widespread calls for a boycott.

Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has compiled a report exposing extremist activity among members of the Brotherhood and their links to jihadis. It named three Muslim charities in Britain that seemed to be sending funds to extremists in the Middle East. At the very least this should lead Britain to expel members of the Brotherhood, close down the charities and sequester their funds; but the problem will never be dealt with until the source of the funding is cut off. At some stage the British government must ask itself a simple question: however much we want Qatari gas, how much longer can we permit commercial relations with such people?

In June the American magazine The Atlantic asserted that Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qa’eda proxy in Syria, had somehow received ‘Qatar’s economic and military largesse’. There is no suggestion this was sanctioned or funded by the Qatari government: but every suggestion it came from interest groups based in Qatar and wealthy Qatari nationals. The problem has been around for years. Wikileaks published a memorandum from Hillary Clinton, when US secretary of state, saying Qatar had the worst record of counter-terrorism co-operation of any ally of the United States.

The Qatari foreign minister, Khalid al-Attiyah, called claims such as The Atlantic’s ‘Qatar-bashing’, and denied the country or anyone in it was bankrolling IS. Certainly, most of the evidence for IS’s funding points to groups and individuals in Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia may provide training camps for anti-IS groups from Syria approved by the Americans. In response to a US request for similar assistance, the Qataris said it would be ‘premature’. Meanwhile, the Americans continue to accuse Qatar and Kuwait of being ‘permissive environments’ for the funding of terrorism, and believe Qatar has unhealthily close links with Jabhat al-Nusra. Certainly, Mr Attiyah has sought to play down its activities by pointing instead to atrocities committed by those loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

Israel has driven America’s scepticism over Qatar, accusing it of funding Hamas and of exporting terror not just through Jabhat al-Nusra but through IS. A German minister, Gerd Müller, then said that when the question was raised about funding IS, ‘The key word there is Qatar.’ This brought an immediate repudiation from the Qataris, who argued they had been among the first to condemn the beheading of the murdered American hostage James Foley.

However, the Americans — whose largest base in the Middle East is, ironically, at Al Udeid in Doha — believe Qatar has funded extremists not merely in Syria and Libya but also in Tunisia, Mali and Iraq. Another Wikileaks cable revealed Meir Degan, a former head of Mossad, telling the US that ‘Qatar is trying to cosy up to everyone’, and warning America to close its bases there.

Qatar’s pretence that it is an honest broker in the Middle East, attempting to see all sides of an argument, may wash in Doha. It won’t, however, resonate in countries such as Britain and America whose citizens are targeted by jihadis financed by people who may be Qataris, and who have enjoyed Qatari hospitality. Qatar needs to be reminded that the civilised parts of the world with which it does business won’t tolerate apologists for savage extremists. It can’t face both ways on this. Britain must expel members of the Brotherhood and sequester their funds. And it must tell Qatar that unless it stops turning a blind eye to some of its people funding murder and extremism, and stops equivocating about extremists, its assets will be frozen and trade with it suspended until it does.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Simon Heffer, is a columnist for the Daily Mail and a former deputy editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • jesseventura2

    And have the Tories stopped immigration from islamic hell holes?

    • wudyermucuss

      Vibrant cohesive enriching communities shurely?

    • StJohnMalta

      On Immigration. Hardly anyone believes either the Conservative or Labour Parties.The Frankfurt School of subversion of the West and its globalist agenda are ruling our political class.The whole White English Christian culture is being demonized. The very systems and institutions that created this nation are slowly being dismantled. There is a discrimination and organized dispossession against Anglo-Saxons in this country.

      In England , the English are less than 30% of London and a minority in Luton,Bradford,Leicester,Dewsbury,Slough,Blackburn,Manchester,Birmingham. Furthermore, Britons are replaced by 500 000/year non western migrants while around 300 000 of the best educated middle class leave the UK for good . Thus the “net migration” of +200 000 …

      All the mainstream parties hate the native white English people and want to make them a minority in their own country. There is nothing ethical about mass immigration, it destroys cultures, drives down wages, makes society less harmonious and is a huge burden on the economy.

      ‘Unemployment among ethnic minorities costs the economy almost £8.6 billion a year in benefits and lost revenue from taxes. Half of Muslim men and three quarters of Muslim women are unemployed.’

      Both these parties have done absolutely nothing about the increasing numbers of immigrants completely changing towns and cities. The British (English, Welsh, Scots and Irish) are second and third class citizens in their own countries. Politicians locally and Nationally put the interests of the immigrants before those of the indigenous population. You can see why Farage and UKIP are gaining such popularity. They talk the truth and stand for British People, not ”communities”…

      • Sean L

        All true. Talk about Qatar, however true, is somewhat beside the point. I dare say Simon Heffer agrees with you. But they wouldn’t print it above the line. Of course, for all I know, Simon Heffer could also be posting below the line anonymously. You might even *be* Simon Heffer. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the Ukip posts issue from Conservative MPs, just as it’s said half the posters on teenage girl chat forums are actually lecherous old men. Probably a few Conservative MPs to be found there also. . .

    • avi15

      No, but you see, it’s all part of globalisation: they want Britain to become an Islamic hell hole too.

  • manuel-rafael

    The Brotherhood left for no other reason than a reassignment and redeployment strategy; with funds for operations safely established their “Stealth Jihad” had the financial arsenals of money laundered through legal channels, was safe to leave the Qatari Terror High Command.

  • Ilya Grushevskiy

    Because a lack of goods from Britain will make Qataris change their stance on their whole outlook on life.. Lack of trade doesn’t change them – have a discussion, an honest, no hidden agendas one.. may not help, but it will do much more than some trade embargo that only entrenches views and inflames egos.

  • Mr. Heffer – terrific article. You are spot on.

    Please see the Qatar Awareness Campaign!!!
    contact info on site…

  • Michelle

    The UK elite are too arrogant, too self centred and too greedy to ever have the courage and the will power to kick Qatar where it hurts and that also applies to virtually all the western elite who have far too much money invested in oil to care about anyone else although it is considered trendy to jump onto the leftist bandwagon as an excuse for doing nothing.

    • AJH1968

      There is a
      solution Michele, but I think its introduction at this stage would affect the
      portfolios of too many powerful people. The solution is Thorium or nuclear
      (preferably Thorium), could you imagine how wonderful it would be; not to hear
      a politician toadying up to the usual suspects after a fresh outrage, because
      we were now energy independent.

  • Foxy Loxy

    Whilst Qatar is a location where banks and financial institutions continue to generate huge amounts of business, I’m afraid that Qatar will never be the subject of onerous sanctions and other trade restrictions. Ultimately what is in the interests of the almighty dollar will prevail.

  • rtj1211

    The first mature article I have read in the right-wing MSM on this matter in a decade.

    Thank you for writing it.

  • Kaine

    They’re all awful regimes. Let’s build a bunch of nuclear power plants, use Norwegian gas where necessary and never have anything to do with this awful mess again.

  • As long as Qatar and Turkey are on good terms with Hamas, it is on the wrong side of the imbroglio that has plagued the Middle East for the past 4 thousand years.

    Look for alternatives is the best advice I can give.

  • victor67

    Qatar is about as honest a broker in the ME as the US. It is paradoxical that Boris has sold London to them. But as our eloquent defence secretary insists they are like the Saudi’s our “moderate” partners in the war on extremism.
    Principles are on well and good but a shed load of natural gas sure does open doors and the use of mass slave labour and few dozen dead South Asians (building their stadia) doesn’t cut in our neo-liberal utopia.

  • victor67

    Assets frozen? Not a chance in hell. We are way to dependent on the now.

  • Terry Field

    Hypocricy. The US pushed the Moslem Brotherhood as it abandoned the North African regimes, That included Libya and Egypt. England and Qatar pushed the MB, and also Islamic radicalism in Syria. Hence Blair’s child’s Godfather was stabbed in the rectum then shot.
    Assisi in Egypt and the bloody disaster in Syria changes the direction of policy again!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Since Britoland has gas from Qatar in quantity, it is weak, and has few choices. This is all the result of utterly incompetent, and corrupted government in Britain.
    Now our geriatric planes bomb parked toyota cars! WHAT strategic bloody genius. BUT good news – they are piloted by WOMEN.
    Probably because the plane are so bloody antique they cannot bear the weight of a male pilot!

  • victor67

    Zionist Organization of America and State sponsor of terror. No irony there then aye.

    • Terry Field

      You must be writing from Maison Peppa Pig!

  • Eurocentric

    Obviously many Brits don’t think anything of Qatar owning so many of Britain’s businesses and properties. You gotta stop loving their money to do anything about it. Oh, and boycott the World Cup for a start.

  • Roy

    It takes some stalwart common sense political decisions and straight talking that the UK has not seen or heard of for over half a century. The mamby pamby brigade of course are so impaired with niceness they do not understand what it is to tell people the truth of the matter with force and aggressiveness. What the world needs more than anything else, is some truths to be told.

    • grimm

      What has niceness versus common sense got to do with it? It is all about Qatari money and a not very principled (or nice or namby pamby) Western money-grubbing elite who would sell out any principle they might have to stay rich or get richer.

      • Roy

        By being “nice” western leaders seem unable to tell countries with a questionable reputation the full, up front, candid opinion of how low they are, and not to drag them down to the same level.

  • Innit Bruv

    Money makes the world go round….Money has no colour….
    Tell the Qataris with all their hard earned petrodollars where to get off ???
    Wouldn’t hold your breath.

  • srsn

    Qatar had the worst record of counter-terrorism co-operation of any ally of the United States? Oh come on now, that must be Pakistan…

    • GripperStebson

      The Qataris must be pretty awful if they’re worse than Pakistan – a country who “overlooked” * cough * the presence of Osama Bin Laden literal at the gates of their military academy for the best part of a decade.

  • stag

    Quite right.

  • WFB56

    Until we embrace tracking, nuclear power and other sources of energy that are not dependent on middle-eastern and Russian antagonists, we will have to live with the realpolitik of unfettered Qatari immigration and investments.

  • avi15

    Britain has been in bed with the Arabs for far too long. Does it have the guts to get out? I doubt it.

    • sebastian2

      Don’t know about needing guts to get out of bed with Arabs but, for sure, most decent people would need a very large brandy indeed, Viagra, a blindfold, and the persuasive ministrations of a hypnotist to get into bed with them.

  • thomasaikenhead

    ” It won’t, however, resonate in countries such as Britain and America whose citizens are targeted by jihadis financed by people who may be Qataris, and who have enjoyed Qatari hospitality. ”

    Er, Simon, it DOES wash which is why the US maintains a massive military base in Qatar and Qataris and their money are made very welcome indeed in the UK!

  • sebastian2

    “What will it take for us to stop doing business with Qatar?”
    Short of finding huge gas supplies within UK’s territorial waters and short of not needing military bases in the Middle East (the US shifted there from KSA), we can do nothing. Short of not needing the Qatari’s as occasional intermediaries. We can do nothing. Short of not needing Qatar’s investments in London, we can do nothing. Short of not needing the useful influence they have in the GCC, we can do nothing. Money and power talk. The Qataris have both.

    The Qataris know all this. Their position with us is robust. And as a sunni state with its own rigidly orthodox, influential sunni constituency it cannot unduly oppose that constituency’s islamic demands. The membership has to be placated or humoured, or else. The rulers in an islamic state need the imams on side. Qatar is forced either through expedience or conviction (Qataris are, after all, muslims), to pay them off. Pay them off and pay off those who might so easily destabalise the country and denounce the Al Thanis whose wealth and private indulgences are eye-watering and quite probably “unislamic”. The rulers want it – and have it – both ways: a personal (and often well hidden) lavish life-style with Western protection, and domestic public piety and mohammedan aquiescence. They operate much as the Al Sauds do: calculating the options very shrewdly. Offending nobody; betraying everybody.

    My guess is that Qatar is banking on the West to eliminate the Isis’ and other threats looming over them – including Iran. Isis, right now though, is the priority and the Qataris have assessed the danger to them, balanced that against the risk to the West and have decided that it’s in the West’s own interest to do the needful on, as it were, Qatar’s behalf as well in the end.

    I believe our emancipation from this lies in dealing with the Iranians. That would put the wind up the sunni states rather vertically. Engaging with the mullahs is not an agreeable option; but, on balance, it may be less so to the Al Thanis than to us, and remind them that two can play their sort of game.

  • Guest


  • Guest

    James, I feel for you in Glasgow on a wet Monday having to listen to
    this lot. Nobody cares what the LibDems say. This is a pointless
    conference by a useless party reported on by hapless hacks to bored
    readers who couldn’t care less.
    Here is what I think will happen at the 2015 General Election:
    – Conservative – sunk
    – Labour – biggest party but no majority
    – LibDems – sunk but with just enough MPs to make a feeble Labour LibDem Coalition
    – Ukip – 15% of the national vote, 5 MPs and much joy.

    The Labour LibDem coalition struggles on until autumn 2015 when it collapses and we have another General Election. Then we get:
    – Conservative – biggest party but no overall majority
    – Labour – sunk
    – Lib Dem – sunk
    – Ukip – up to 25 MPs – enough to hold the balance of power.
    Result – we have five years of a Conservative Ukip coalition headed by George Osborne as Prime Minister.

    • Ngaire Lowndes

      Oh please, not Gideon. Put David Davis in as PM and the picture looks almost attractive.

  • Ambientereal

    In this world everything turns around about energy. The developed countries must keep developing and using Nuclear and other alternative sources to avoid being so depending of the oil from unstable countries.

  • Epytus

    I hope the Emir of Qatar (Sherborne school, Harrow, RMA
    Sandhurst 1998) will not be representing Her Majesty the Queen at Sovereign’s
    Parade, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

  • iakovos

    The Israel-Jordan-Egypt Natural Gas Agreement and the Gaza War of July 2014