Pompeo urges Qatar to ensure financial systems are not exploited by terrorists
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is intensifying Washington’s efforts to end the Qatar dispute as it approaches its one-year mark on June 5. He called his Qatari counterpart on Wednesday, urging to see “the dispute eased and eventually resolved, as it [currently] benefits Iran.”
The State Department said that Mr Pompeo spoke with Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and “reaffirmed US commitment to working with all of our GCC partners to ensure designations are fully enforced and that our partners’ financial systems are not exploited by terrorists and illicit actors.”
After the Arab Quartet boycotted Qatar, Doha took steps to designate terrorist entities and to curb terror financing.
Mr Pompeo’s emphasis on Iran follows the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. A senior US official told The National last week that Washington is looking for a “united front” among its Gulf partners in countering Iran.
It also follows a report by The Telegraph on Sunday quoting US security officials who urged Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militants. One US official told the paper that a “number of senior Qatari government officials have developed cordial relations with senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as a number of Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisations.”
According to the Washington Post, Qatari officials in April 2017 appeared to consent to payments totalling at least $275 million to free nine members of the royal family and 16 other Qatari nationals. The recipients included among others Iran’s IRGC and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, but Doha denies paying any ransom to terrorist groups.
Now, as the US readies for more economic pressure on Iran, it is also looking at joint efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to impose sanctions and minimise trade relations with Tehran.
Ideally the US would like to see the Qatar dispute resolved before a tentative Camp David summit planned for September. The US want Gulf partners, Jordan and Egypt to attend as one bloc at the summit.
But in the interim, the US is also looking at minimum steps to ease the Qatar dispute. For the boycotting states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt), however, Doha has to take concrete steps before any easing of measures happens.
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said during his visit to Washington last March that Qatar would need to go back to its 2013 commitments under the Riyadh agreement.
He named terror financing, radicalisation, incitement, support for extremist clerics among list of problems with Qatar. “We are not in a hurry” Mr Jubeir said on ending the boycott, as the emphasis is on bringing tangible results in curbing the support for extremism.