President Donald Trump has hit back against Qatar for suggesting a coup against him, stating that the Arab leaders he met at last month’s summit in Riyadh universally blamed Qatar for “funding of radical ideology” and “extremism”. Qatar has strong ties with global Islamist networks, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood.
On Twitter, he said: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
Some of the countries present at the summit, such as the secular military regime in Egypt, have a strong case against Qatar. Qatar has long supported the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Brotherhood splinter group Hamas, which operates smuggling routes in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
However, others, such as Saudi Arabia, have been just as complicit in their support for Islamists as Qatar has. In many cases, these Islamists have even been far more radical than those supported by Qatar.
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia quietly united extreme Salafists behind General El-Sisi’s 2013 coup against the Brotherhood.
And in Libya, the Saudi-backed Madkhali Salafist movement is waging war against the Brotherhood, side by side with local secular strongman General Haftar.
Of course, Salafist groups are not a concern if they are not actively advocating waging terror against the West. But a strong case can be made that Saudi propagation of the underlying ideology behind these groups makes the jump to the jihadist creed espoused by Al-Qaeda or Islamic State easy to make. In addition, the Saudis have had few qualms about supporting organizations with direct connections to al-Qaeda and even branches of al-Qaeda itself.
While Qatar has forged ties with the Taliban in the last few years, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates propped up and recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan, which granted safe haven to Osama bin Laden and was ultimately deposed during the U.S. invasion in 2001.
Even the brutal Muslim Brotherhood regime of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan, charged with genocide of Christians and still considered to be a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, was warmly embraced by Saudi Arabia after Sudan chose to break off ties with Iran.
During the Balkan wars, King Salman himself was involved in the arming of al-Qaeda’s Bosnian wing.
Even today, in Syria, Saudi connections to Islamic extremism are evident. Saudi Arabia strongly and openly supports the al-Qaeda connected Ahrar al-Sham, which is designated as a terrorist group by two Saudi allies, Egypt and the UAE. There are also reports that Saudi Arabia previously backed even more extreme groups such as the Islamic State, although it appears to have largely stayed away from Qatar’s favored Al-Nusra Front.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to the ‘funding of radical ideology’ is Saudi funding for mosques and madrassas that preach archaic, fundamentalist forms of Islam and serve as breeding grounds for future militants and terrorists.
In Pakistan, madrassas which preach extremist ideology and feed the ranks of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations receive billions in Saudi funding.
This propagation of radical ideology is not limited to the Islamic world. The Saudis have also been deeply involved in funding extreme mosques in Germany and in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Finsbury Park Mosque, at the heart of the very same London terror network that brought forth last Saturday’s attacks, had received millions in funding from Saudi royals.