LONDON — Breakfast last week in New York with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran was a cordial affair, bereft of the fireworks of his predecessor, whose antics made headlines and not much more. Rouhani, flanked by his twinkly-eyed foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was composed, lucid and, on the whole, conciliatory. He said a nuclear accord was doable by the deadline of Nov. 24 “if there is good will and seriousness.” He revealed that he had spoken last year with President Obama about “a number” of possible areas of collaboration in the event of an accord. He did not underplay the difficulties, or the implacability of a deal’s opponents in Iran and the United States, but suggested the “short-lived dustbowl” thrown up by any resolution would dissipate as win-win awareness grew. He even alluded to the aroma of roses. It was a polished performance full of the subtleties intrinsic to the Iranian mind. The question, as always with Iran, is what precisely it meant.
The interim agreement with Iran, reached in November 2013, has had many merits. Iran has respected its commitments, including a reduction of its stockpiles of enriched uranium and a curbing of production. The deal has brought a thaw in relations between the United States and Tehran; once impossible meetings between senior officials are now near routine.
The rapid spread over the past year of the Sunni jihadist movement that calls itself Islamic State has underscored the importance of these nascent bilateral relations: ISIS is a barbarous, shared enemy whose rollback becomes immeasurably more challenging in the absence of American-Iranian understanding. Allies need not be friends, as the Soviet role in defeating Hitler demonstrated. President Obama’s war against ISIS makes war with Iran more unthinkable than ever. Absent a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful,” in the words of last year’s accord, the drumbeat for such a war would almost certainly resume. From Jerusalem to Washington countless drummers are ready.
It is critical that this doable deal get done, the naysayers be frustrated, and a rancorous American-Iranian bust-up not be added to the ambient mayhem in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic, 35 years after the revolution, is — like it or not — a serious and stable power in an unstable region. Its highly educated population is pro-Western. Its actions and interests are often opposed to the United States and America’s allies, and its human rights record is appalling, but then that is true of several countries with which Washington does business.
An important recent report from The Iran Project — whose distinguished signatories include Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Pickering, Ryan Crocker, John Limbert (the former U.S. hostage in Tehran), Joseph Nye and William Luers — put the U.S. strategic interest in a deal well: “There is a strong link between settling the nuclear standoff and America’s ability to play a role in a rapidly changing Middle East.” A nuclear agreement, the report said, “will help unlock the door to new options.” From Syria to Afghanistan by way of Iraq, those options are urgently needed.
For them to be opened up, a workable narrative has to be found, one that satisfies Congress that Iran’s road to a bomb has been sealed off through curtailment and rigorous inspection of the nuclear program, and satisfies Iran’s hard-liners that the country’s ability to develop nuclear power for peaceful use has not been permanently infringed or its rights as a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons irrevocably curtailed. That is a tall order. But subtlety and ingenuity are no strangers at this table. Both sides have an enormous amount to lose if talks fail.
Obama has put his personal prestige behind this effort. Collapse would amount to another Middle Eastern failure for him. He knows that the sanctions drive against Iran would likely unravel in the event of failure, as cooperation with Europe, Russia and China frays. He would be pushed once again toward military action against Iran. (Of course, he would also prefer to concentrate visible progress in the talks between Nov. 4 and Nov. 24, so that Republicans cannot brandish “softness” on Iran against the Democrats in the midterm elections.)
The difficulties are considerable. Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told me, “Those we talk to can’t deliver and those who can deliver can’t talk to us.” Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who does not do New York breakfasts, is a hard-liner. On issues from the number of centrifuges Iran is permitted to the duration of any deal, the two sides differ. Sadjadpour believes “managed irresolution” is the best that can be hoped for, a failure that preserves some gains. I think failure would be unmitigated: Renewed estrangement, war drift. A deal can and must be done for the simple reason it is far better — for Iran, the United States, Europe and Israel — than any of the alternatives.
Hundreds of young women and girls are leaving their homes in western countries to join Islamic fighters in the Middle East, causing increasing concern among counter-terrorism investigators.
Girls as young as 14 or 15 are travelling mainly to Syria to marry jihadis, bear their children and join communities of fighters, with a small number taking up arms. Many are recruited via social media.
Women and girls appear to make up about 10% of those leaving Europe, North America and Australia to link up with jihadi groups, including Islamic State (Isis). France has the highest number of female jihadi recruits, with 63 in the region – about 25% of the total – and at least another 60 believed to be considering the move.
In most cases, women and girls appear to have left home to marry jihadis, drawn to the idea of supporting their “brother fighters” and having “jihadist children to continue the spread of Islam”, said Louis Caprioli, former head of the French security agency Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire. “If their husband dies, they will be given adulation as the wife of a martyr.”
Five people, including a sister and brother, were arrested in France earlier this month suspected of belonging to a ring in central France that specialised in recruiting young French women, according to Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister.
Counter-terrorism experts in the UK believe about 50 British girls and women have joined Isis, about a tenth of those known to have travelled to Syria to fight. Many are believed to be based in Raqqa, the eastern Syrian city that has become an Isis stronghold.
Those identified by researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College London are mainly aged between 16 and 24. Many are university graduates, and have left behind caring families in their home countries. At least 40 women have left Germany to join Isis in Syria and Iraq in what appears to be a growing trend of teenagers becoming radicalised and travelling to the Middle East without their parents’ permission.
“The youngest was 13-years-old,” Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told the Rheinische Post. “Four underage women left with a romantic idea of jihad marriage and married young male fighters who they had got to know via the internet.”
In Austria, the case of two teenage friends, Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, who ran away from their homes in Vienna to join jihadis in Syria, may be “only the tip of the iceberg”, said Heinz Gärtner, director of the Austrian Institute for International Politics. An estimated 14 women and girls are known to have left Austria to fight in the Middle East, according to the interior ministry.
The US does not have available data on women and girls joining Isis fighters in Syria, a senior intelligence official said in an emailed statement. “We do not have numbers to share on the number of women linked to [Isis] or fighting for them,” the official said.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counter-terrorism expert at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, downplayed the issue in the US, saying the number of women and girls joining Isis was of concern, but not an epidemic. “It’s a threat, but it’s [one] among many potential threats coming out of Syria,” he said.
Karim Pakzad, of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations, said some young women had “an almost romantic idea of war and warriors.
“There’s a certain fascination even with the head and throat-cutting. It’s an adventure.” Some may feel more respected and important than in their home countries, he added.
But Shaista Gohir, of the UK Muslim Women’s Network, said little was known about the young women’s motivation or what happened to them after leaving home. “Some of these girls are very young and naive, they don’t understand the conflict or their faith, and they are easily manipulated. Some of them are taking young children with them; some may believe they are taking part in a humanitarian mission,” she said.
Social media plays a crucial role in recruiting young women to join Isis in the Middle East, according to many experts.
Some British women and girls have posted pictures of themselves carrying AK-47s, grenades and in one case a severed head, as they pledge allegiance to Isis. But they are also tweeting pictures of food, restaurants and sunsets to present a positive picture of the life awaiting young women in an attempt to lure more from the UK.
Mia Bloom, a security studies professor at Massachusetts University and author of Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, said the recruitment campaign painted a “Disney-like” picture of life in the caliphate. Some young women were offered financial incentives, such as travel expenses or compensation for bearing children.
Women already living amid Isis fighters used social media adeptly to portray Syria as a utopia and to attract foreign women to join their “sisterhood in the caliphate”, she said. “The idea of living in the caliphate is a very positive and powerful one that these women hold dear to their heart.”
But the reality was very different, she said. Both Bloom and Rolf Tophoven, director of Germany’s Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy, said reports indicated that women had been raped, abused, sold into slavery or forced to marry. “[Isis] is a strictly Islamist, brutal movement … the power, the leadership structure, are clearly a male domain,” said Tophoven.
Messages between a British Isis fighter in Syria and his common-law wife, read in a UK court last month, revealed that many fighters are taking several wives.
“For example, the United Nations last month estimated that [Isis] has forced some 1,500 women, teenage girls and boys into sexual slavery. Amnesty International released a blistering document noting that [Isis] abducts whole families in northern Iraq for sexual assault and worse.
“Even in the first few days following the fall of Mosul in June, women’s rights activists reported multiple incidents of [Isis] fighters going door to door, kidnapping and raping Mosul’s women.”
• Nora el-Bathy was an ordinary French schoolgirl who wanted to be a doctor. She was 15 but looked young for her age: a slight, smiling youngster in jeans and trainers posing for a photograph under the Eiffel Tower.
When Nora left her family home in the southern French city of Avignon one morning last January, with her school bag, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But, when her classes ended that day, Nora did not return home. Instead, she took a train to Paris, withdrew €550 (£430) from her savings account and changed her mobile phone to cover her tracks. She boarded a flight for flew to Istanbul, and from there took an second internal flight to the Syrian border.
Back in Avignon, her parents – practising but not strict Muslims – reported Nora missing to the police.
Her eldest brother, Fouad, trawled local hospitals convinced she had been in an accident, searched his sister’s bedroom, and examined her Facebook account for clues. There were none, except her hijab, which she had started wearing a few months before, in the wardrobe.
It was only when Fouad quizzed her closest school friends that the reason for Nora’s disappearance emerged.
The el-Bathy family discovered that found she had opened a second Facebook account where she was in contact with “jihad recruiters” in the Paris region and had posted videos of women appealing for recruits to go to Syria. In one picture, a completely veiled woman, brandishing a Kalashnikov, appeared with the caption: “Yes, kill! In the name of Allah,” in French.
Fouad, a former French soldier, was devastated. “She had a second Facebook account on which she spoke of making hijra [going to live in an Islamic country], and a second mobile phone to call the ‘sisters’,” Fouad told his local paper.
Nora had begun talking of wearing the full veil and of helping the wounded in Syria, particularly children; and shortly before she disappeared, she asked her parents if she could have her passport, claiming she had lost her identity card.
But nobody in the el-Bathy family imagined she was planning to run away to war. “We absolutely didn’t see what was coming,” Fouad said.
Three days after her disappearance, Nora telephoned her family. Police traced the calls to the Turkish-Syrian border. She told them she was fine, eating well, happy and that she did not want to return to France.
She also sent Fouad a text message to say she had arrived in Aleppo, Syria, and that she “preferred being there”. The family received two further phone calls: one from a man speaking Arabic and a second from a man speaking French. The caller asked them to give their permission for Nora to marry. Her parents refused.
Fouad decided to go to Syria to rescue his sister, but was turned back at the Turkish border. While there, he received a call from Nora. In the brief conversation, she described how she had learned to shoot, but promised she would not be fighting.
Fouad later succeeded in getting to Syria and seeing Nora. Afterwards, he said she had told him: “‘I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.’
“She was thin and sick. She never sees any light. With other women she has to look after young children, orphans, but she lives surrounded by armed men.”
The el-Bathy family is now taking legal action for their daughter’s kidnap, believing that while Nora went to Syria of her own free will, she had been brainwashed by extremists.
Their lawyer, Guy Guénoun, told journalists that her recruitment and disappearance appeared to have been well planned. “It’s obvious she’s been taken in hand by a very intelligent and structured network,” he said.
The girls – whose parents came to the UK as refugees from Somalia – passed their GCSEs last summer after attending Whalley Range high school for girls in Manchester and went on to study at Connell sixth-form college.
They left home in the middle of the night and were reported missing by their parents. Now both are reportedly married to Isis fighters.
A social-media account believed to belong to Zahra shows her in a full veil posing with an AK-47 and kneeling in front of the Isis flag. Recent postings describe how she had lost her kitten, after her husband threw it outside.
Mahmood, 20, has described the difficulty of telephoning her parents from the Turkish border to tell them she wanted to become a martyr and would see them again on judgment day.
In her blog she wrote: “The first phone call you make once you cross the borders is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Your parents are already worried enough over where you are, wether [sic] you are okay and what’s happened.
“How does a parent who has little Islamic knowledge and understanding comprehend why their son or daughter has left their well-off life, education and a bright future behind to go live in a war-torn country.”
In a post earlier this month she described the type of young women who, like her, had joined Isis from all over the world.
“Most sisters I have come across have been in university studying courses with many promising paths, with big, happy families and friends, and everything in the Dunyah [material world] to persuade one to stay behind and enjoy the luxury. If we had stayed behind, we could have been blessed with it all from a relaxing and comfortable life and lots of money. Wallahi [I swear] that’s not what we want.”
She made a direct appeal on 11 September this year for others to join her. “To those who are able and can still make your way, hasten hasten to our lands … This is a war against Islam and it is known that either ‘you’re with them or with us’. So pick a side.”
Earlier this month her parents, Muzaffar and Khalida Mahmood, publicly appealed for their daughter, who was privately educated and went to university, to return home. Her father said: “If our daughter, who had all the chances and freedom in life, could become a bedroom radical then it’s possible for this to happen to any family.”
Shannon Conley’s plan to serve as a nurse for Islamic State militants in Syria ended in April when the Colorado teenager was arrested on the runway at Denver airport.
A 19-year-old nurse’s aide, Conley had converted to Islam. According to court documents, her family was shocked to find she was interested in “violent jihad”.
Conley was reported to police in October 2013 by a local pastor, after church staff became suspicious of her. For the next five months, Conley had a series of open conversations with undisguised federal agents, during which she repeatedly told them she intended to “wage jihad” overseas. “She also intended to train Islamic jihadi fighters in US military tactics,” the complaint said.
Agents said they attempted to dissuade her from taking up the violent cause, even suggesting she turn to humanitarian efforts instead.
Conley told investigators she planned to marry an Isis member she met online in early 2014. Agents believe this man is 32-year-old Yousr Mouelhi of Tunisia.
Mouelhi reportedly encouraged her to receive additional training so she could assist fighters once she arrived in Syria. In February, she attended a US army Explorers cadet training camp in Texas to learn US military tactics and practice shooting. In March, Mouelhi organised Conley’s flight, arranging for her to travel from Denver to Germany, and then to Turkey. At the time of her arrest, Conley was carrying a list of contacts, a National Rifle Association certificate and a first aid manual. In her bedroom, investigators found literature on al-Qaida and other jihadi groups.
Earlier this month, Conley pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaida and other terror groups such as Isis. She faces up to five years in a US prison and a $250,000 (£154,000) fine.
The images of two young smiling schoolgirls – Samra Kesinovic, 16, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15 – have become symbols of Austria’s concern about young people being radicalised and going to fight in Syria.
The girls, whose families came to Austria from Bosnia, ran away from their Vienna homes in April to fight in the “holy war”, telling their families in a note: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”
It is thought the girls were radicalised after attending a local mosque run by a radical preacher, Ebu Tejma. Samra’s school confirmed that before her disappearance she had been a vocal advocate of the “holy war”’, writing “I love al-Qaida” around the school.
Recent reports in Austrian media suggested that one of the girls had died, although police have not been able to confirm this and it was contradicted by a WhatsApp message from Sabina to friends that said: “Neither of us are dead.”
Police believe both the girls were married to Chechen fighters shortly after arriving in Syria and it is suspected that they are both now pregnant, as their names on social media have been changed to include Umm, the Arabic word for ‘“mother”. However, Austrian police have warned that it is likely their social media accounts are being controlled by men.
Samra and Sabina have been described as “jihad poster girls” whose story is inspiring other young women to join the holy war; earlier in September the government said they stopped two other young girls – a 14- and 15-year-old – from leaving the country on their way to fight. Authorities said they had been lured by “false promises” of a beautiful country and houses and had no intention of carrying out terrorist acts, although it was reported that one of the girls said she wanted “to support Isis – it doesn’t matter where”.
In October 2013, Sarah O, 15, did not come home from school in Konstanz, southern Germany. Her father reported her missing two days later. Soon after, she posted pictures of herself on various social-media sites holding a machine gun, wearing a burqa and black gloves. She said she was being trained to use the gun, and that her day consisted of “Sleeping, eating, shooting, learning, listening to lectures.” She also wrote: “By the way, I’ve joined al-Qaida.”
Sarah, who is half German, half Algerian, called her father a few weeks later with a young man, Ismail S, an Isis fighter from Germany. He asked her father for permission to marry Sarah; the father refused, demanding that she return home. She stayed in Syria and married Ismail in January.
Senator McCain mentioned Elizabeth O’Bagy’s op-ed during the Senate hearings, when he wasn’t playing poker, and tweeted it. That should come as no surprise, considering that O’Bagy is credited with arranging McCain’s infamous photo op with the Syrian rebel leadership.
The Wall Street Journal lists O’Bagy’s role as the Institute for the Study of War. It leaves out the fact that she is the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force making her an activist.
O’Bagy doesn’t matter much. She’s a friendly Western face plastered over a foreign organization. Of more interest is Mouaz Moustafa, the smiling man in the Keffiyah on the far right of McCain in this photo.
Mouaz Moustafa is a Palestinian Arab and the Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force which arranged for McCain’s visit.
Senator McCain called Moustafa a “patriot”, but it’s not clear which country he’s a patriot of, since it’s not Mouaz Moustafa’s first time around on the regime change bus tour.
Before the Syrian Emergency Task Force, Moustafa was the Executive Director of the Libyan Council of North America, which like the SETF existed to help push regime change. Before that, he mentions working with “rebels” in Egypt. On his Twitter feed, he denounces the overthrow of Morsi making it rather clear which side he was on.
His Twitter account frequently features anti-Israel material, including calls for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. On his YouTube account, he “liked” a video featuring Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, “crying while praying”.
He also Favorited an anti-Israel video from a channel titled “JewsExposed”
Predating his international period, Mouaz Moustafa did stints as a Field Organizer for the Democratic National Committee and a senate staffer. On Instagram, he calls himself a Freelance Revolutionary.
Mouaz Moustafa, patriot of four countries, none of which is the United States, appears to be holding McCain’s hand on Syria through the Syrian Emergency Task Force. And the Syrian Emergency Task Force appears to be funded by “prominent” Syrians in the United States. It’s not technically a foreign organization. Technically.
And that’s just from a casual glance at a disturbingly incomplete list of names and functions.
Mouaz Moustafa’s message is that United States must arm the Syrian terrorists without asking questions, and claims that most of the Al-Nusra Front’s members are not really Al Qaeda or enemies of America.
“Let’s look at the Jabhat al-Nusra. Didn’t exist, then existed. Came up to numbers [of] about 5,000 or 6,000. Then we put them on a terrorist list — increase their profile and people stood with them. I think the way they were thinking is, ‘you don’t support us, you don’t give us arms, you don’t give us anything, but then you tell us whose good and whose bad within us?’ So first support, then dictate.”
While advocating for greater intervention in Syria, Moustafa says he has gone to Tampa to meet with Central Command, to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and to the White House “every couple of months” to meet with staff of the National Security Council.
And if you are wondering who is sorting through the Syrian morass to find groups that are suitable for American aid — in other words, not members of al-Qaida — Moustafa says it’s a task his group performs as well.
“What we try to do is make sure is that the aid is going from the State Department is going to the right people,” he said.
And these are the politicians he claims are most helpful to his cause
Among the legislators who have been most helpful to his cause, he said, are McCain, New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, as well as Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
It’s strange that no one has called attention to the fact that a group headed by people with such extreme ties and beliefs is dominating American foreign policy on Syria and controlling the itinerary of senior senators like McCain.
CAMBRIDGE, England — IN the last few years, there has been a dramatic rise of a seemingly new type of polity: the Islamic rebel state. Boko Haram in West Africa, the Shabab in East Africa, the Islamic Emirate in the Caucasus and, of course, the Islamic State in the Middle East, known as ISIS, or ISIL — these movements not only call for holy war against the West, but also use their resources to build theocracies.
Though in some respects unprecedented, these groups also have much in common with the Islamic revivalist movements of the 18th century, such as the Wahhabis on the Arabian Peninsula and the great jihadist states of the 19th century. They waged jihad against non-Muslim powers, and at the same time sought to radically transform their own societies.
One of the first groups to engage in anticolonial jihad and state-building was the fighters led by Abd al-Qadir, who challenged the French imperial invasion of North Africa in the 1830s and 1840s. Qadir declared himself “commander of the faithful” — the title of a caliph — and founded an Islamic state in western Algeria, with a capital in Mascara, a regular army and an administration that enforced Shariah law and provided some public services. The state was never stable, nor did it ever encompass a clearly defined territory; it was eventually destroyed by the French.
Equally short lived was the Mahdist state in Sudan, lasting from the early 1880s to the late 1890s. Led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi (“redeemer”) Muhammad Ahmad, the movement called for jihad against their Egyptian-Ottoman rulers and their British overlords, and it established state structures, including a telegraph network, weapon factories and a propaganda apparatus. The rebels banned smoking, alcohol and dancing and persecuted religious minorities.
But the state was unable to provide stable institutions, and the economy collapsed; half of the population died from famine, disease and violence before the British Army, supported by Egyptians, crushed the regime in a bloody campaign, events chronicled in “The River War” by the young Winston Churchill, who served as an officer in Sudan.
The most sophisticated 19th-century Islamic rebel state was the Caucasian imamate. Its imams rallied the Muslims of Chechnya and Dagestan into a 30-year holy war against the Russian empire, which sought to subdue the region. During the struggle, the rebels forced the mountain communities into a militant imamate, executing internal opponents and imposing Shariah law, segregation of the sexes, bans on alcohol and tobacco, restriction on music, and the enforcement of strict dress codes — all hugely unpopular measures. Czarist troops confronted the imamate with extreme brutality, eventually shattering it.
In all of these cases, there were two distinct, though intertwined, conflicts, one against non-European empires and one against internal enemies, and both struggles were combined with state-building. This pattern is in fact not unique to the emergence of Islamic rebel states. The sociologist Charles Tilly once identified war as one of the most crucial forces in the formation of states: The foundation of a centralized government becomes necessary to organize and finance the armed forces.
At the same time, Islam was at the center of these movements. Their leaders were religious authorities, most of them assuming the title “commander of the faithful”; their states were theocratically organized. Islam helped unite fractured tribal societies and served as a source of absolute, divine authority to enhance social discipline and political order, and to legitimize war. They all preached militant Islamic revivalism, calling for the purification of their faith, while denouncing traditional Islamic society, with its more heterodox forms of Islam, as superstitious, corrupt and backward.
Today’s jihadist states share many of these features. They emerged at a time of crisis, and ruthlessly confront internal and external enemies. They oppress women. Despite the groups’ ferocity, they have all succeeded in using Islam to build broad coalitions with local tribes and communities. They provide social services and run strict Shariah courts; they use advanced propaganda methods.
If anything, they differ from the 19th-century states in that they are more radical and sophisticated. The Islamic State is perhaps the most elaborate and militant jihad polity in modern history. It uses modern state structures, including a hierarchically organized bureaucracy, a judicial system, madrasas, a vast propaganda apparatus and a financial network that allows it to sell oil on the black market. It uses violence — mass executions, kidnapping and looting, following a rationale of suppression and wealth accumulation — to an extent unknown in previous Islamic polities. And unlike its antecedents, its leaders have global aspirations, fantasizing about overrunning St. Peter’s in Rome.
And yet those differences are a matter of degree, rather than kind. Islamic rebel states are overall strikingly similar. They should be seen as one phenomenon; and this phenomenon has a history.
Created under wartime conditions, and operating in a constant atmosphere of internal and external pressure, these states have been unstable and never fully functional. Forming a state makes Islamists vulnerable: While jihadist networks or guerrilla groups are difficult to fight, a state, which can be invaded, is far easier to confront. And once there is a theocratic state, it often becomes clear that its rulers are incapable of providing sufficient social and political solutions, gradually alienating its subjects.
In this light, the international community should continue to check the expansion of groups like the Islamic State, and intervene to prevent widespread human rights abuses. But given that the United States and its allies are unlikely to commit the massive military resources necessary to defeat the Islamic State — let alone other jihadist states — the best policy might be one of containment, support of local opponents and then management of the groups’ possible collapse.
We need to recognize what these groups really are. Referring to them as a “cancer,” as President Obama has, is understandable from an emotional standpoint, but simplifies and obscures the phenomenon. Jihadist states are complex polities and must be understood in the context of Islamic history.
THE hostilities in Gaza between Israel and Hamas persist and the diplomatic war at the United Nations continues, also without resolution. While there is no shortage of opinions on the way forward, the most obvious solution is strikingly absent — the need to disarm and isolate Hamas, the radical Palestinian Islamist group.
Since Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has dragged us into three rounds of major assaults, and more than 14,800 rockets have been fired into Israel by the group or its proxies. The discovery of dozens of tunnels packed with explosives, tranquilizers and handcuffs that end at the doorsteps of Israeli communities should be enough to convince anyone that Hamas has no interest in bringing quiet to Gaza or residing alongside Israel in peace.
It says a great deal that Hamas’s former Arab backers, which historically have included Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, long ago abandoned the terrorist group. Only a few nations still stand by Hamas. Among the most prominent is the tiny Persian Gulf emirate Qatar.
In recent years, the sheikhs of Doha, Qatar’s capital, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza. Every one of Hamas’s tunnels and rockets might as well have had a sign that read “Made possible through a kind donation from the emir of Qatar.”
Sitting atop 25 billion barrels of crude oil reserves and enormous natural gas reserves, Qatar has the highest gross domestic product per capita of any country in the world. The emirate is known for international shopping sprees that have included the funding of six American university campuses in Doha, the purchase of the iconic Harrods department store in London, and ownership of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club.
For many years, the gas-rich gulf peninsula tried to avoid attracting attention lest it found itself in the same situation as oil-rich Kuwait, which was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in 1990. About 10 years ago, however, Qatar changed tactics. To ensure the country’s survival, the ruling House of Thani has spent extravagantly on increasing Qatar’s presence and prestige on the global stage.
Today, the petite petroleum kingdom is determined to buy its way to regional hegemony, and like other actors in the Middle East, it has used proxies to leverage influence and destabilize rivals. Qatar’s proxies of choice have been radical regimes and extremist groups.
In pursuit of this strategy, the gulf state is willing to dally with any partner, no matter how abhorrent. Qatar has provided financial aid and light weapons to Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria, and a base for leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.
The emirate has also used the Arabic service of Al Jazeera news network to spread radical messages that have inflamed sectarian divides. In the early days of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera’s coverage of popular uprisings earned the network millions of new followers and solidified its status as a mainstream global news network. Qatar capitalized on this popularity by advancing its own agenda — namely, using the Arabic network to promote the views of extremists who were undermining the region’s more pragmatic elements. In particular, Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood angered its gulf state neighbors. In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha in protest.
Mr. Meshal’s uncompromising stance — he has vowed never to recognize Israel — has long been an obstacle to reaching a peace deal. But behind Hamas, Qatar is pulling the strings. According to a report last week in the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat, Qatar even threatened to expel Mr. Meshal if Hamas accepted Egyptian proposals for a long-term cease-fire in Gaza. All because Doha wants a starring role in any cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel.
It is time for the world to wake up and smell the gas fumes. Qatar has spared no cost to dress up its country as a liberal, progressive society, yet at its core, the micro monarchy is aggressively financing radical Islamist movements. In light of the emirate’s unabashed support for Wahhbi (Salafi Deobandi) terrorism, one has to question FIFA’s decision to reward Qatar with the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar’s continued sponsorship of Hamas all but guarantees that, whatever happens in this round of hostilities, the terrorist group will rearm and renew hostilities with Israel. The only way forward is to isolate Hamas’s last major backer. Given Qatar’s considerable affluence and influence, this is an uncomfortable prospect for many Western nations, yet they must recognize that Qatar is not a part of the solution but a significant part of the problem. To bring about a sustained calm, the message to Qatar should be clear: Stop financing Hamas.