Qatar: the West’s best of ‘frenemies’ – it buys our arms and funds world terror

IF money talks, then the pipsqueak, maverick emirate of Qatar has a voice like a foghorn.

However, it isn’t the ear-splitting volume of what’s bellowed that matters, it’s the mixed messages emanating from the capital, Doha, that beggar belief.

Because Qatar parrots from two scripts: one echoes the mantra of pro-Western, freewheeling capitalism; the other promotes a credo of anti-Western extremism, manifest in colossal financial support to terrorist franchises fomenting Sunni Islamist violence throughout the hellhole of the Middle East.

So, even by the Gulf’s duplicitous standards, few states are shot full of as many contradictions as Qatar, per capital the world’s third richest country – after Luxemburg and Norway – according to the International Monetary Fund.

Covering less than 4,500 sand-strewn square miles, its population of 1.8 million includes only 288,000 Qataris, the rest being expats and bonded foreign labourers, there to serve the absolute monarchy of the Al Thani clan and make the statelet prosper.

And prosper is an understatement. Sitting on the globe’s largest natural gas field and oil reserves conservatively estimated at 25 billion barrels, Qatar can indulge its sovereign wealth fund’s whims in a vast hash of investments.

They range from an airline and the TV channel, Al Jazeera – whose propaganda stretches far beyond the Middle East to Europe and the USA – to gargantuan chunks of international conglomerates.

JEWEL IN THE CROWN: Harrods is a flagship bauble in Qatar's huge investment portfolio

JEWEL IN THE CROWN: Harrods, the London store for the super rich, is a flagship bauble in Qatar’s huge investment portfolio

The £100-billion Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), for instance, includes in its share portfolio huge stakes in Volkswagen, Siemens, Harrods, The London Shard, Heathrow Airport, Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, Royal Dutch Shell, Tiffany, Sainsbury’s, BlackBerry, Barclays Bank and a cluster of other stellar institutions.

Currently, the QIA is trying to buy London’s Canary Wharf, though so far its overtures have been rebuffed.

But, with £25-billion a year flooding in from energy sales, Qatar can punch multiple times above its miniscule weight and uses its vast wealth to exert disproportionate influence in all manner of subversive ways.

That’s why the mini-emirate is the cuckoo in the nest of international affairs.

Under the autocratic rule of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who seized control of the country from his father, Khalifa, in 1995, Qatar’s brand rapidly expanded and it’s been further burnished by Hamad’s son, Tamim, who took over in 2013.

The 33-year-old emir has continued the deceit of being the West’s best of ‘frenemies’ by continuing to buy in Western expertise, weaponry and commercial assets, while exporting extremist Wahabbi Islam anywhere opportunity presents itself.

WORLD CUP WINNER: Tamim al-Thani, the young emir of Qatar, plays host to FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter

WORLD CUP WINNER: Tamim al-Thani, the young emir of Qatar, plays host to FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter

Though not official regime policy, Qatar gives a nod and wink to its host of obscenely rich citizens’ generosity to Al-Qaeda offshoots throughout the war-torn region and provides sanctuary to reviled hate preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

The spiritual guru of the terror franchise – whose followers praise the Islamic State’s (IS) barbarities in Iraq and Syria as ‘great victories – once told Al Jazeera of his admiration for Hitler’s genocide of the Jews, vowing, ‘Allah willing, next time it will be at the hands of [we] believers.’

However, Qatar’s recurrent problem is misreading the runes, never more naively than in believing the Arab Spring would somehow herald an era of Sharia sunshine to replace the people’s yen for accountable democracy.

Despite Doha’s best efforts to prop up Egypt’s brief, Muslim Brotherhood government, the army’s counter-coup put paid to it.

A similar strategic cock-up besets Qatar in post-Gaddafi Libya, where it bankrolls Libyan Dawn, a bunch of jihadi thugs busy lining their own pockets through oil piracy in Tripoli.

Ditto meddling in Syria, where the emirate’s middlemen fund the Al Qaeda-linked cutthroats of Jabhat al-Nusra, only to have seen them seriously squeezed between forces loyal to the Al Assad tyranny and IS’s savages.

And Qataris could hardly hide their embarrassment when the Afghan Taliban were invited to open an office in Doha, only to hoist their inflammatory black flag over the building.

Then there’s the emirate’s funding of Hamas – long branded a ‘terrorist entity’ throughout the West – whose leaders purloined Qatar’s £250-million gift ‘to ease Gaza’s suffering’ to buy arms and build the network of terror tunnels which Israel destroyed in Operation Protective Edge.

Meanwhile, a six-star Doha hotel suite is where Hamas’s political supremo, Khaled Meshaal, calls home, counting his estimated £1.6-billion fortune, while his people scavenge through the ruins of their war-ravaged dwellings for the bare necessities of life.

It was reportedly at Meshaal’s request that Qatar allied itself with Turkey and laid down conditions for a ceasefire with Israel that heavily favoured Hamas…until, that is, Egypt pour scorn on them and sorted out a truce that reflected reality.

WORLD CUP LOSER: Qatar soccer chief, Mohamed bin Hammam, said to have paid out millions to secure the oily emirate's soccer fortune

WORLD CUP LOSER: Qatar’s disgraced ex-soccer chief, Mohamed bin Hammam, reportedly paid out millions to secure sport’s greatest prize for the oily emirate

However, the emirate’s mule-headed determination to stamp its authority on anything and everything in the Middle East still knows no bounds, whatever the neighbours say.

And several can barely contain their rage over Qatar’s obsession with its revolutionary buddies, however impeccably Islamic they are.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already withdrawn their ambassadors from Doha and, in July, Bahrain detained three Qatari as spies.

Still, there was some good news for Doha last week when FIFA – who else, when money talks so loudly? – dismissed accusations Qatar had ‘bought’ the 2022 World Cup, despite an Everest of circumstantial evidence that the emirate’s disgraced soccer sheikh, Mohamed bin Hammam, secretly paid millions to buy the votes of football officials worldwide.

The sweeteners, claim FIFA insiders, were doled out not to influence the destination of the Cup, but for bin Hammam – now banned from the game for life – to replace the smug Swiss, Sepp Blatter, as soccer’s unassailable supremo.

Qatar, though, is not out of the dock yet.

Instead, it faces stinging condemnation over its ruthless treatment meted out to poor emigrant worker, at least 1,000 of whom have died while working on the £77-billion World Cup construction sites. And that horrific number is expected to reach 4,000 by the time the tourney kicks off in eight years’ time.

Most scathing is a report by Amnesty International, which stated workers were effectively slave labour, forced to work 14-hour days for months on end, without wages, in temperatures of up to 45C/113F, and without adequate access to water, safety equipment or medical care.

But, as the Qataris might say, that’s a small price to pay for the kudos of being the first Arab state to host the World Cup.

If the UN is no longer fit for purpose, then the West must invent something better

UNLESS you’re a news junkie, probably you didn’t notice the United Nation’s General Assembly was in session last month, with world leaders piling into New York as if it were Blue Cross Day in Macy’s sales.

A sombre Barack Obama chaired the fatuous waffling show and so much extraneous CO2 was expended, it probably blew a chasm the size of Alaska in the ozone layer.

As was his privilege, the keynote speech was made by the US President – greyer, gaunter now and a far cry from the jaunty, upbeat figure of global optimism he cut when first addressing the gathering in 2009.

Way back then, he promised ‘a new era of engagement with the world’.  And – lo and behold! – we have it…just not quite the one he envisaged.

By ‘engagement’ Obama meant peace and conciliation, not the vicious, internecine, barbaric collision of religious credos, clashing cultures and political dogmas blighting almost the entire Middle East and swathes of Africa, not to mention Ukraine or the existential threat to the West from jihadis returning home from DIY decapitation courses, courtesy of Islamic State (IS).

Though not entirely all down to his inertia, no-drama Obama bears huge culpability for ignoring how the layer cake of conflicts was rising, not that such an egotistical poseur would have the humility to fess up.

After all, only a year ago he bragged to the General Assembly (GA), ‘The world is more stable than it was five years ago.’

That was either self-delusion or purblindness at its worst.

Because, as some of his once closest advisers have testified – none more so than former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – Obama’s been hands-off when he should have been full-on, a telegenic prop not a globo cop, a dithery camp follower rather than a trailblazer.

HANDS-ON AT LAST! Obama tells the UN General Assembly he's awake to the evil of Islamic State

HANDS-ON AT LAST! Obama tells the UN General Assembly he’s awake to the evil of Islamic State

Now, after six years of comparatively moribund inactivity, even the peacenik president has finally accepted that actions speaks louder than platitudes and he’s taken on IS in its own backyard.

‘There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil,’ he told the Assembly, showing real fire in his gut for once. ‘The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.’

Quite where what some describe as the Third Iraq War leads to is anyone’s guess, though at least a smattering of Arab nations have overcome their timidity to share the US-led coalition’s heavy lifting.

However, this isn’t about Obama’s flaws, IS carnage, sneaky Iran’s march to the nuclear weapon threshold or even the intractable Israel-Palestinian brouhaha.

It’s about the ineptitudes and blatant, anti-Western bias of the UN, bar some of its useful spin-offs, such as the World Health Organisation and UNESCO.

As the disorganisation celebrates its 69th birthday this month, how the founding fathers – notably President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – must be whirling in their graves in disgust at how their vision of a body intended to bring peace to a devastated, post-war world has begotten a corpse of grubby self-interest and accusatory spite.

Of the 51 original members, only the Soviet Bloc, China and the former Yugoslavia – all WW2 allies – weren’t democracies, even if the probity of some others at that time (e.g. Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and South Africa) was contestable.

Nonetheless, all were signatories to the UN Charter and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which ‘reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights and dignity, and worth of the human person’, while committing all member states to promote ‘universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.’

Fine words, noble aims; but fast-forward nearly seven decades and what have we…193 states, a disreputable number of whom couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss for the club rules apropos human rights, gender equality or inter-faith tolerance.

So, only at the UN can indictable tyrannies, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Sudan – with their penchants for headbanging religious extremism, financing terror and judicial codes beyond the barbaric – share the civilised world’s lustre.

DISUNITED NATIONS: The UN is now a pale shadow of what its creators envisaged 69 years ago

DISUNITED NATIONS: The UN is now a pale shadow of what its creators envisaged 69 years ago

Meanwhile, whatever is the allure of IS’s Islamo-fascist paradise is beyond me. But I fully endorse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overview, as he told to the GA last week, ‘The Nazis believed in a master race; the militant Islamists believe in a master faith.’

Led by a succession of UN Secretaries General unfit to be short-order chefs, the liberal democracies now find themselves victims of a naïve misbelief their tools of egalitarian governance were beckoning to be adopted by states where people power was zilch or, if it dares show itself, got brutally crushed.

The so-called Arab Spring finally laid waste that fantasy.

Yet now, once again, the altruistic West is expected to intervene in a Middle East bloodbath, albeit at the behest of a slumbering American leader only just awoken to reality.

Strikingly, Obama didn’t bother asking UN permission, before sending his fighter jets to pulverise IS.

And maybe former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, explains why, noting, ‘No organisation embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations [as the UN]. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power manoeuvring; the General Assembly a theatre of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.’

Now many sage voices believe there is a critical need for a serious appraisal of the UN’s purpose and cost – a thwacking US$30-bn per annum, the tab mainly picked up by American and European taxpayers.

Because, after nearly 70 years, it has degenerated into a shambling old buffer with exorbitant tastes, its ‘halo effect’ dimmed by age, scandal, nepotism and corruption.

Hence, an idea being touted is for the UN to be evicted from its palatial tower overlooking New York’s East River and pack it off somewhere more in kilter with its skewered ethos – Doha and Khartoum have been mentioned.

Then, maybe, a Western-leaning Organisation of Democratic Nations – even if it accommodates China and Russia on the basis they are political and economic powerhouses – can emerge, thus checkmating the preposterousness of a Third World tail wagging the First World dog.

Only then might it dawn on the post-medieval despots that the West has had a bellyful of their inanity and insanity, and they should dump their self-inflicted woes in their own lap, not ours.