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TheNewYorkTimes/2017/6/19 18:10

Fighting, While Funding, Extremists

Even sophisticated observers admit to confusion and consternation about the Middle East, where rivalries and jealousies among nations have reached new levels of complication. Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors decide to punish Qatar and some of its citizens, ostensibly for fostering and financing Islamist terrorism. But Saudi Arabia itself has been accused of underwriting extremists. No matter: President Trump, captivated by Saudi royalty, sides with the Saudis '€” even though the United States has two important bases in Qatar.
Baffling, right? But here is one clear bottom line: The biggest loser in all this may turn out to be the fight against the Islamic State. Nobody likes ISIS. Yet the idea of a united front among Gulf states against the terrorist group has all but evaporated, and hypocrisies and contradictions abound. Here'€™s a primer on some of the main players.
QATAR This tiny but exceedingly wealthy country definitely has a mixed record. But is it a colossal threat? Last week, the United States agreed to sell it $12 billion worth of F-15 jets and two Navy vessels arrived there for joint military exercises. If Qatar were seen as a serious terrorism threat, that wouldn'€™t be happening.
True, Qatar has long been accused of funneling money to the Muslim Brotherhood, a loose and influential political network. The Brotherhood has officially forsworn violence. Yet Saudi Arabia, whose royal rulers fear Islamist populism, still brands it a terrorist outfit.
Qatar has also supported radicals in Syria '€” like the Qaeda offshoot Al Nusra '€” and groups in Libya and other Arab nations. But the Saudis have long aided competing rebel groups in those countries, including extremists. Aiming to play a regional mediating role, Qatar has also angered the Saudis by fostering ties with other hostile groups, including the Afghan Taliban, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, giving the leaders of some of them airtime on its freewheeling TV network, Al Jazeera.




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