Republicans Debut Bill Challenging Qatar’s U.S. Alliance over Ties to Hamas

2024-04-09 20:09:13

Three Republican senators introduced a bill on Tuesday challenging the elite status of Qatar as a “major non-NATO ally” of the United States, citing the Islamist state’s close relationship with Hamas and its failure to use those ties to help free hostages taken in the unprecedented October 7 siege of Israel.

Qatar has for decades established itself as a mediating power between global jihadists and the free world, prominently hosting Hamas’s elite “political” leaders in its capital, Doha. Qatar also served as the “political” hub of the Taliban during the 20-year Afghan war, making itself a platform for dialogue between Taliban terrorists and the U.S.-backed Afghan government. Doha has offered safe haven to high-profile jihadists while also allowing the U.S. military to maintain a presence in the country that allows it to plan and orchestrate actions against terrorists in neighboring countries such as Iraq and Syria.

Qatar’s support of Hamas has become a significant point of contention in its relationship with America in the aftermath of October 7. On that day, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and engaged in a wide variety of atrocities against civilians, including torture, gang rape, infanticide, the desecration of corpses, and filming many of its terrorist acts, uploading them to the internet. An estimated 1,200 people were killed that day and another 250 were taken hostage. Qatar has mediated talks between Hamas and Israel and the United States since the attacks.

KISSUFIM, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 01: A child's tricycle is seen left outside a partially destroyed house after Hamas militants attacked this kibbutz on October 7th near the border of Gaza, on November 01, 2023 in Kissufim, Israel. More than three weeks since Hamas's Oct 7 attacks in Israel, which killed 1,400 according to Israeli authorities, just over half have now been laid to rest, and over four-fifths have been identified. Volunteers continue to identify victims at the country's Shura military facility. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

A child’s tricycle is seen left outside a partially destroyed house after Hamas militants attacked this kibbutz on October 7th near the border of Gaza, on November 01, 2023, in Kissufim, Israel. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

“For more than six months, Hamas has held five U.S. citizens hostage in Gaza, as well as the bodies of three citizens believed to have been killed on or shortly after October 7th,” Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), who introduced the legislation alongside Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), said in a statement on Tuesday. “Qatar has shifted from claiming it is exercising all leverage on Hamas to publicly stating that it has no leverage and promoting a ceasefire regardless of the release of hostages.”

“Major Non-NATO Ally status is a privilege and countries like Qatar must continuously earn. Failure to take action against Hamas is beginning to look like tacit support for a foreign terrorist organization designated by the United States,” Sen. Budd asserted.

Sen. Budd’s legislation, the “Reviewing Qatar’s Major Non- NATO Ally Status Act,” would require Secretary of State Antony Blinken to assess the value of maintaining Qatar’s ally status and the potential risks it would bring to the national security of America. Specifically, it would require Blinken to certify that the alliance with Qatar is in America’s interests, that Qatar does not “directly or indirectly support, financially or otherwise, acts of international terrorism or foreign terrorist organizations.”

The bill would also require Blinken to assert that Qatar has done everything it possibly can in the form of diplomatic leverage to free Hamas’s October 7 hostages and that Qatari officials have “expelled or agreed to extradite to the United States any individuals determined to be members of Hamas.” Several of those named, including Hamas “political” boss Ismail Haniyeh, have notoriously lived in Doha for years.

“If the Secretary of State cannot make this certification in good faith, then the President is required to immediately terminate the designation of the State of Qatar as a major non-NATO ally,” the bill states.


Tal Shlomo reaches out to touch one the posters showing the names and photographs of the hostages in Gaza on October 21,2023. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post via Getty Images).

President Joe Biden designated Qatar a “major non-NATO ally” in March 2022. Shortly before the designation, then-Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the designation would greatly expand the possibilities for both military and civilian bilateral cooperation and came in the face of Qatar allegedly aiding the Pentagon in helping evacuate Americans from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021. As a Pentagon report at the time explained, the designation allows “private companies within those nations … to bid on contracts to maintain, repair or overhaul U.S. military equipment.”

“Those nations can also enter into agreements with the United States for training,” it noted.

The Qatari embassy in Washington responded to the legislation by asserting that America and Qatar have enjoyed an extended period of “successful collaboration” threatened by the “reckless” potential downgrade in ties.

“Among other things, Qatar has quietly and successfully mediated the release of Americans held in Afghanistan, Iran and Venezuela,” the embassy said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel. “This is a record of successful collaboration based on shared interests and commitments. Especially in this delicate moment in our region, it is reckless to undermine the partnerships that America and its allies have built carefully over decades.”

The embassy also noted that talks between Israel and Hamas have resulted in hostage releases since October 7.

“In the current crisis, Qatar’s record as a mediator speaks for itself, with over 100 hostages released to date. We are determined to do everything possible, but Qatar is only a mediator — we do not control Hamas or Israel. In the end, Hamas and Israel alone are responsible for reaching an agreement,” the statement concluded.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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Republicans Debut Bill Challenging Qatar’s U.S. Alliance over Ties to Hamas


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