“Qatar is financing terrorism”– This is what the Foreign Policy ‘s editorial concluded in Friday’s edition.
And here is what it wrote: “Behind a glittering mall near Doha’s city center sits the quiet restaurant where Hossam used to run his Syrian rebel brigade.”
“At the battalion’s peak in 2012 and 2013, he had 13,000 men under his control near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. Part of the “Free Syrian Army” [FSA], they are loyal to me,” he said over sweet tea and sugary pastries this spring. “I had a good team to fight.”
He insists that he has stopped sending money to the battle, for now. His brigade’s funds came, at least in part, from Qatar, he says, under the discretion of then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah.
But the injection of cash was ad hoc: Dozens of other brigades like his received initial start-up funding, and only some continued to receive Qatari support as the months wore on. When the funds ran out in mid-2013, his fighters sought support elsewhere.
Late last week, on Sept. 25, Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept documented how a Washington, D.C.-based firm retained by the United Arab Emirates made contacts with journalists that appear to have yielded articles detailing how fundraisers for groups such as al-Nusra Front…operate openly in Doha, Qatar’s capital.
But the global Muslim Brotherhood isn’t Qatar’s only — or even its most important — network. Nor does the royal family subscribe to the Brotherhood’s ideals per se. Often overlooked is a second strand that tows closer to Qatar’s official sympathies: the Salafi movement.
Qatar’s friends abroad were also at work. Throughout 2012 and early 2013, activist “Salafists” in Kuwait teamed up with Syrian expatriates to build, fund, and supply extremist brigades that would eventually become groups such as al-Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham.
One such donor was the young Kuwaiti cleric Hajjaj al-Ajmi. Ajmi runs the so-called “People’s Commission for the Support of the Syrian Revolution”.
In the months that followed, many of Ajmi’s campaigns in Kuwait ran parallel collections in Qatar. Donations could be placed through a representative named Mubarak al-Ajji, according to campaign posters, which affirm he is under Ajmi’s “supervision.” Ajji’s Twitter bio describes him as a “jihadists” who hate “Shiites and infidels.”
But it is in Syria where Qatar’s network most spectacularly misfired.
Qatar and other international powers haphazardly backed dozens of different brigades and let them fight it out for who could secure a greater share of the funding.
Qatar’s money runs even more obliquely as well, through the dozens of consultants, businessmen, and former officials whom it has hired at one point or another.