By Sam Cohen
Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Miss., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, took square aim at Qatar as a chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East in comments on Wednesday, potentially foreshadowing trouble for the Persian Gulf emirate.
“Qatar’s hedging support for extremists to the United States cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Marshall in remarks delivered at a conference sponsored by the Middle East Forum think tank and titled “Qatar: Strategic Ally or Strategic Threat?”
“Their support for violence, terror and bloodshed call into question the American partnership,” the Kansas congressman added.
The United States currently operates an air base in the emirate’s territory, and Marshall hinted that President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could reexamine that arrangement based on the emirate’s dealings with Iran and other regional terror groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban.
“Secretary Pompeo understands the complexity of this issue and will take appropriate steps,” said Marshall.
Bergman sounded many of the same notes as his colleague from Kansas.
“Qatar is clearly a problematic country, but to this point the United States has not taken enough action,” said the Michigan representative, who served as a three-star Marine general before he was elected to Congress.
Bergman slammed the emirate for a range of nefarious activities, from playing a double game with Iran and terrorist militants, to partnering with Iran, to launching an influence campaign in the U.S. that included the hacking and theft of emails and other communications belonging to American nationals.
He proposed two concrete measures to sanction Qatar. The first step would be the passage of the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, which would require the State Department to report to Congress on funders of Hamas, the terrorist organization that runs the Gaza Strip. Qatar has poured billions into Gaza and into propping up the Hamas-led government, and these activities could lead to penalties under the proposed law.
Bergman also urged Congress to pass an amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permitting American citizens to file civil suits against state sponsors of terror, no matter where the act of terror was committed. Right now, U.S. citizens may only initiate civil actions in domestic courts for terror attacks perpetrated on American soil. Davidson, who was the last of the three to appear, echoed the messages of his colleagues, including in his backing for the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act.
“Qatar has allowed senior leaders of Hamas to operate in Doha,” said Davidson. “No one should ever doubt our nation, our allies and our vital national security interests.”
Qatar has been feeling the heat on the diplomatic front since 2017, when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states imposed a blockade on the emirate in response to its close ties with Iran and funding for terror groups throughout the region. The emirate has failed in its attempt to improve its image through a sophisticated influence campaign targeting influencers and officials in Washington, D.C., including members of the American Jewish community and the pro-Israel policy sector.
Sam Cohen is a freelance writer based out of the Washington, D.C., area.