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Qatar Spotlighted as Sponsor of Islamists

Most people think of Qatar merely as one of the six Gulf states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and part of one of Islam's quieter regions. Yes, it sponsors the often-irritating Al Jazeera television network, but that's about as much notice as it gets in the West.

But to some of its neighbors, Qatar is seen as a hub of finance for radical Islamists and anti-Saudi forces, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the regimes of Iran and Syria. Qatar is accused of financing Hezbollah and its takeover of Beirut. Qatari support helps Assad's regime, but also Assad's most dangerous al-Qaeda linked opponents, al-Nusra. In sum, wherever there is trouble, Qatar seems to be found in the background. Most pertinently, it is widely thought that the Emir of Qatar would like to see the leaders of some of his neighbor states replaced in due course.

Accordingly, tensions within the GCC have become so great that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors to Doha, the Qatar capital.

There has been some notice of this development in the Western media, but a lot more will develop if Qatar's critics decide that Qatar is so flagrantly undermining regional peace that it must be confronted with economic sanctions or military force. The new military government of Egypt seems especially incensed by the supposedly subversive activities of Qatar and conceivably could become the instrument of a Gulf campaign for Qatari regime change.

But any action against Qatar is fraught with problems--and the great law of unintended consequences. Qatar is an economic hothouse; it exports oil and imports almost all its food and other consumer goods--largely from its Gulf neighbors. Sanctions might be applied, therefore. But Qatar is so rich it could just import what it needs by air from anywhere in the world.

A military attack might succeed, but then what? Overthrowing a monarchy might establish a precedent the other Gulf states might like to avoid. If it did happen, look for the Egyptians to supply most of the force.

In any cases, with crises seemingly arising all over the world, the problem of Qatar has not yet assumed a place in the spotlight of Western attention. Not yet.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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