Careful readers will remember I wrote about the alleged Qatar coup attempt back in October, here, here and here. The story was that members of the military aligned with Islamic fundamentalists attempted a coup in the vital Persian Gulf country on Oct. 12. It was put down with the help of U.S. troops there, and the State Department and the Qataris denied anything happened. In my last entry on this, I said I couldn’t confirm anything and that I — reluctantly — must concede that they were rumors.
Now, possibly not so! Hesiod, over at Counterspin Central, picked up on an interesting nugget in the New York Times‘ coverage of Colin Powell’s speech before the U.N. on Wednesday. In his speech, Powell made a lot of noise in tying al Qa’ida to Baghdad through the person of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi (right), the one-legged man believed responsible for masterminding the assassination of American diplomat Laurence Foley last October. But, as Hesiod points out, the Times buried the real story:
Mr. Powell withheld some critical details today, like the discovery by the intelligence agencies that a member of the royal family in Qatar, an important ally providing air bases and a command headquarters for the American military, operated a safe house for Mr. Zarqawi when he transited the country going in and out of Afghanistan.
The Qatari royal family member was Abdul Karim al-Thani, the coalition official said. The official added that Mr. al-Thani provided Qatari passports and more than $1 million in a special bank account to finance the network.
Mr. al-Thani, who has no government position, is, according to officials in the gulf, a deeply religious member of the royal family who has provided charitable support for militant causes for years and has denied knowing that his contributions went toward terrorist operations.
Private support from prominent Qataris to Al Qaeda is a sensitive issue that is said to infuriate George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. After the Sept. 11 attacks, another senior Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who may have been the principal planner of the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was said by Saudi intelligence officials to have spent two weeks in late 2001 hiding in Qatar, with the help of prominent patrons, after he escaped from Kuwait.
But with Qatar providing the United States military with its most significant air operations center for action against Iraq [the al Udeid Air Base — Ed.], the Pentagon has cautioned against a strong diplomatic response from Washington, American and coalition officials say.
Sure makes those coup reports a lot more interesting, now doesn’t it? And it makes a lot more sense that Qatar and the United States would both deny that anything happened. But this is part of Washington’s game. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and now Qatar have known ties to Islamic extremists that have had a direct hand in attacking United States interests and nothing is done because we need these countries to attack Iraq. (Or Afghanistan, in the case of Pakistan. I have less problem with going easy on Gen. Musharraf since he’s in a delicate spot and we don’t want Pakistan’s nukes falling into the hands of Islamo-Fascists.) It’s almost as if the War on Terror is an irritating distraction from the War on Iraq. And that’s exactly backward, as far as the American people are concerned.
(As an aside, the Times article notes that by revealing that Zarqawi is a walking dead man now, as Baghdad has constantly denied links to al Qa’ida. “A half hour after Powell mentioned his name, I’ll wager he disappears or is killed,” said a coalition official, recalling the death in Baghdad in 2001 of the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, after intelligence reports suggested than he might be activating his own terrorist network.” As Hesiod asks, if the United States could have had Zarqawi killed earlier by mentioning him, why didn’t it? As with Ansar al-Islam, it’s convenient for the White House to let threats linger as long as they serve the goal of invading Iraq.)
George over at Warblogging has an excellent entry on why Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. With the the national threat level about to go to “orange” later today amid fears of a mid-February attack by al Qa’ida that could rival Sept. 11, 2001, why is Washington ignoring real links between supposed allies and terror groups and instead focusing on tenuous ties between our enemies? This is why.