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Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) is petitioning the State Department to reassess its close relationship with Qatar, which has served as Hamas’ chief financial lifeline while also enjoying close ties to the United States, which recently inked an $11 billion arms deal with the controversial country.
Qatar, which has been designated by the State Department as a “significant terrorist financing risk,” has emerged as a key player in recent efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Roskam, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, wrote that Qatar’s massive financial support for Hamas—which has topped $400 million in recent years—should raise red flags in the White House, which has sought to bolster the Qatari government.
“I write to express our grave concerns with the State Department’s active partnership with Qatar, a strong backer of the U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, Hamas,” Roskam wrote, according to a copy of the letter sent Thursday and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. “U.S. cooperation with Qatar at the very same time they are providing material aid and support to an active and ferociously violent terrorist organization only serves to tacitly endorse and encourage this unacceptable behavior.”
As the conflict in the Middle East rages on, Kerry involved Qatar and Turkey—both of whom are hostile to the Jewish state—in his ill-fated ceasefire efforts. The Israeli government flatly rejected the proposal after it reportedly favored Hamas’ demands.
Roskam warned Kerry that he is wrongly rewarding Qatar for its bad behavior.
“I am deeply concerned that your close work with Qatar in pursuit of a Gaza ceasefire rewards, bolsters, and legitimizes Qatar’s longstanding sponsorship of the terrorist organization Hamas,” Roskam wrote. “The severity of the current conflict and possibility for even greater escalation underscores why, rather than look the other way as Doha enables terrorism against Israel, we must instead hold Qatar and all those who sponsor terrorism accountable for these reprehensible crimes.”
The letter, which is also addressed to Treasury Department Secretary Jack Lew, seeks to discern whether State and Treasury are investigating possible sanctions violations by Qatar.
“Qatar’s assistance to Hamas should at the very least raise serious questions about the applicability of U.S. sanctions laws,” the letter states. “I hope the State and Treasury Departments are investigating these potentially serious violations, and not merely overlooking unlawful behavior because it is expedient.”
“It’s an indisputable fact that Qatar has become the chief sponsor of Hamas—an internationally recognized terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel,” Roskam told the Free Beacon. “With Qatar’s financial backing, Hamas continues to indiscriminately launch thousands of rockets at our ally Israel. The Obama administration must explain its working partnership with a country that so brazenly funds terrorism right before our eyes, even going so far as turning to Qatar to help broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The United States must stop fooling itself: Qatar’s actions disqualify it as a suitable ally and global partner in our quest to restore relative peace and stability in the Middle East.”
A Treasury Department official declined to comment on the letter when reached Thursday by the Free Beacon.
Qatar has made no secret of its support for Hamas. It also has come to light in recent days that Qatar provided Hamas sophisticated technology that allowed it to detect Israeli troop movement and launch attacks from within a complex system of underground tunnels, according to reports.
Qatar pledged more than $400 million to Hamas in 2012 and promised another $60 million last month.
Israeli security services intercepted a courier earlier this year who had “returned from Qatar with money, directives, and a cell phone for clandestine Hamas cells in the West Bank,” according to Roskam’s letter.
Hamas military leaders also have been seen travelling in and out of Qatar, where the head of the terror group’s politburo, Khaled Mashaal, permanently resides.
This type of behavior has led top Treasury Department officials to dub Qatar as a “permissive jurisdiction” for terrorism finance. Qatari funds also have flowed to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which is violently taking over Iraq.
Still, the U.S. government has continued to forge a military alliance with Qatar.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently inked an $11 billion deal with Qatar to provide it with Apache helicopters and the Patriot and Javelin defense systems.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department, said it is time the United States addressed Qatar’s rogue activities.
“Hamas has not only provided support and safe haven to Hamas in Qatar in recent years. It has in recent weeks played the role of spoiler in preventing a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel,” Schanzer told the Free Beacon. “It is heartening to see legislators recognize this. The question now is what steps will be taken to prevent Qatar from continuing to pursue its dangerous Hamas policies.”