Inside storyDoha sent $2 billion to Hamas; knew it wasn't for 'welfare'

Intel report: Qatar’s funding, policies led directly to Oct. 7; it shouldn’t be key mediator

Report by intelligence veterans on behalf of lawyers for Hamas victims’ families says US has long known the scale of Doha’s malign activities, harm to US and allies’ interests, yet still fails to act

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

File - Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (R) in a meeting with Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar, December 16, 2019 (from the Facebook page of Al Jazeera Palestine)
File - Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (R) in a meeting with Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar, December 16, 2019 (from the Facebook page of Al Jazeera Palestine)

A confidential report by a team of veteran US and Israeli intelligence professionals working on behalf of lawyers for the families of October 7 victims contends that Qatar should not be allowed to continue to serve as a key mediator in the Gaza conflict, notably in negotiations for the release of hostages.

Compiled on the basis of research in English, Arabic, and French in the Middle East, Europe and the US, as well as public sourcing, the report concludes that Qatar is a fundamentally disingenuous actor, falsely presenting itself as an honest broker, moderating influence in the region, and “friend of the West.”

In fact, the report states, “Qatar operates not as an independent mediator as it claims, but benefits directly from the bloodshed and geopolitical fallout and unrest that result from its policies.”

As regards Hamas’s invasion of southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were massacred and 253 abducted, the report specifies that “Qatari funding and policies led directly to October 7.”

The “Doha-Gaza Alliance at all levels — financial, political, and military — has resulted in the current regional upheaval, the impact of which is being felt worldwide,” it further states.

Therefore, the report argues in its conclusions, “Continuing to allow Qatar to act as a key mediator in the Gaza conflict is mistaken.”

US President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, January 31, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sections of the report, including its executive summary and “interim policy conclusions,” were made available to The Times of Israel. Its authors include veteran CIA intelligence officers and Israeli intelligence professionals.

It was produced on behalf of lawyers for families of October 7 victims, including for use in legal action being undertaken on behalf of the families.

Gazans celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the broken Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Khan Younis, October 7, 2023. (AP/Yousef Masoud)

Its findings include material known for years to US intelligence about Qatar’s malign activities but not strategically acted upon — a failure, the authors argue, that allowed Qatar to advance policies harmful to the interests of the US and its allies in the Middle East and beyond, including the souring of the Arab Spring, the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the rise to power and arming of Hamas, culminating in October 7 and its ongoing regional and global consequences.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at Lusail Palace, in Doha on February 6, 2024. (Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP)

Looking more broadly at Qatar’s dealings with Gaza, the report specifies that Qatar has been fully aware and supportive of Hamas military activities and strategy for over a decade, and that its publicly declared assertion that its funding for Gaza was going to Palestinian welfare rather than Hamas military activities “has no credibility.” Rather, the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and his government “know the vast majority of funds Qatar was sending to Gaza were going to assist Hamas’s terror infrastructure, weapons, and training.”

The Qatari government offers “significant financial support” to the Muslim Brotherhood in general and has provided at least $2 billion in total to Brotherhood-affiliate Hamas, it states.

The government further allows the military and political leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to operate freely in Qatar. Doha’s banking and investment sectors “are open to these Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists — despite many of them being sanctioned elsewhere,” the report notes.

“And Qatar’s influential Al Jazeera Network not only maintains an editorial policy backing these outlawed groups, it also provides them platforms (including special programming, interviews, social media feeds, etc.) through which to push the Muslim Brotherhood’s political platform.”

The report highlights, for example, that Qatar provided a safe haven and eventually full citizenship to Hamas’s spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Egyptian cleric Qaradawi, who died in 2022, legitimized Palestinian terrorism, including suicide bombings and the killings of Israeli women and children. “From Doha, Al-Qaradawi had a popular weekly television show on Al Jazeera, and he also ran his ‘charity’ (which was designated by the US Government for terror funding), the Union of Good, out of the Qatari capital.”

In this file photo, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh kisses the hand of Egyptian cleric and chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi upon the latter’s arrival at Rafah Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, May 8, 2013. (Said Khatib/AFP)

While Qatar “utilizes the cover” of claiming that its funding for the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates like Hamas is for “welfare” projects, it is “completely cognizant of the fact that the money is instead going to support terror and political ends,” the authors say.

More broadly still, the report concludes that Qatar’s “symbiosis” with Iran, support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates such as Hamas, and backing for other militant and terror groups deeply harm the interests of US allies such as Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, and negatively impact America’s own critical interests. Among such groups cited in the report are the Taliban, Hezbollah, Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Shiite militant groups in Iraq, and terror groups in Libya.

“The negative impact of the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood nexus to US policy interests includes bloodshed, unrest, and instability in a wide range of locations, most immediately in the Middle East and Africa,” the report elaborates. “These ‘local’ conflicts have far-reaching implications for US policy going beyond the region — with Russia and China oftentimes appearing to be the main beneficiaries of the instability these conflicts have created.”

The writers note that Qatar “actively backs extremist terrorist groups in at times open defiance of US government policy and interests.” It specifies that the US has “on multiple occasions demanded Qatar halt support for these groups.” Nonetheless, Qatar “has refused to back down.”

These terror groups, as well as Iran, utilize financial institutions in Qatar to avoid US sanctions, the report also alleges. “Large-scale money laundering also appears to be taking place by these groups with the knowledge of the Qatari authorities.”

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Doha on October 14, 2023. (Qatar News Agency / AFP)

Much of Qatar’s influence, the authors further contend, “stems from its role as mediator/arbiter between Iran and the West. And while Qatar’s terror financing has largely been ‘excused’ on the grounds that it serves as an intermediary between the United States in its efforts at rapprochement with Iran, the Qatar regime has in fact been “a major destabilizing factor.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar, Oct. 14, 2023. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Qatar has also invested billions of dollars in Europe and the US toward building a positive image, the report specifies. “This includes significant funds invested in the sports and academic sectors, as well as in lobbying and media campaigns. In the large part, these efforts have paid off,” the authors conclude. “Qatar has been able to continue to support organizations and individuals outlawed elsewhere.”

Related: Awash in Qatari money, have US campuses become incubators for Doha’s interests?

Even after October 7, and even as the US and Israel have worked with Qatar as an ostensible mediator on Gaza in general, and on the negotiations for the release of the hostages in particular, “all indications” are that the Qatar-Hamas alliance “continues unchecked,” the report notes.

Reporters raise their hands to ask questions as, from left, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki, Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, and Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, attend a news conference about the Israel-Hamas war, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Yet Qatar does not operate “as an independent mediator as it claims,” the authors determine. The ‘independent mediator’ hat is simply used by Qatar when under pressure from the US and others when developments — related to Doha’s support of Hamas, Iran, and other regimes and groups — demand it.”

“Current developments,” the authors argue, “should be viewed in the larger context: The damage, and not just since October 7, but over the past decade-plus, of Qatari support for Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas and its serious negative impact throughout the region — and most significantly to critical US interests, as well as [to those of] US allies.”

People walk by photographs of Israelis still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv. March 14, 2024. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Therefore, they conclude, “Continuing to allow Qatar to act as a key mediator in the Gaza conflict is mistaken. Any role in mediation, including in negotiations over the American, Israeli, and other hostages being held by Hamas, must be limited and viewed in the context of Qatar’s historic and continued support for Hamas’s military infrastructure, operations, and strategy.”

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