Qatar overtakes West in sponsoring Syria rebels

Qatar overtakes West in sponsoring Syria rebels
Mon May 20, 2013 21:32:05

Monocracy of Qatar is set to boost its financial support for the anti-Syrian militant groups more than West through pouring in tens of millions of dollars to arm the foreign-backed terrorist groups.

Yet Qatar also stands accused of dividing the opposition groups - and of positioning itself for even greater influence in the post-Assad era.

A short drive from the rising skyscrapers of Doha’s West Bay, emblems of the once-sleepy Qatari capital’s frenetic growth, the three-starred flag of the Syrian revolution can be seen fluttering over a modern villa guarded by police cars. The villa is the new Syrian Arab Republic embassy in Qatar, representing not the government of Bashar al-Assad, but terrorist groups fighting for his removal.

It is the only such embassy in the world, inaugurated by a Qatari minister two months ago with the usual diplomatic pomp, after hard lobbying by Qatar led the 22-member Arab League to hand over Syria’s seat to the opposition.

The diplomats working inside have recourse to neither a government nor a bureaucracy to serve Syrians abroad, lacking even the means to renew a passport. “Maybe soon,” mutters a hopeful junior diplomat. But Qatar is not a country that allows details to get in the way of ambition.

The opening of the embassy was a theatrical expression of this small, massively rich country’s single-minded lurch into Syria’s crisis. When it comes to backing Syria’s rebels, in terms of armaments or financial support for dissidents, diplomatic manoeuvring or lobbying, Qatar has been in the lead, readily disgorging its gas-generated wealth in the pursuit of the downfall of the House of Assad.

Yet, as the Arab world’s bloodiest crisis grinds on into its third year, Qatar finds itself pulled into a complicated and fractured conflict, the outcome of which has a decreasing ability to influence, while simultaneously becoming a high-profile scapegoat for participants on both sides.

In Syria, few appear to be aware of the vast sums that Qatar has contributed – estimated to be about $3bn.
However, a perception is taking root among growing numbers of Syrians that Qatar is using its financial muscle to develop networks of loyalty among terrorists and set the stage for influence in a post-Assad era.

Qatar’s ruling family, the al-Thanis, have no ideological or religious affinity with the Islamic states or even with its useful friends.

Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been widely viewed as the West's main Mideast allies supporting foreign-backed militants who have been fighting the government of al-Assad.