American Journalists Rub Elbows with Terror-Friendly Middle East Dictatorship

April 18, 2011

Media figures David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” David Brooks of The New York Times, Fareed Zakaria of CNN’s “GPS,” Margaret Warner of PBS’s “Newshour,” and Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera English are among the speakers at the eighth Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Washington, D.C. this week. The event is “held in partnership” with Qatar , the Middle East dictatorship that funds and sponsors the terror channel Al-Jazeera and has links to al-Qaeda.

The forum is co-sponsored by the liberal Brookings Institution, headed by former Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a speaker.

The official program guide for the conference features greetings from President Obama. “I appreciate your efforts to help advance the new beginning I called for between the United States and Muslim communities around the world,” he says.

However, the 9/11 commission demonstrated (page 90) that Qatar has been protecting terrorists, including the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. A recently released cable from WikiLeaks goes further, saying that Qatari nationals were involved in 9/11 and may still be on the loose.

Meantime, Sultan al-Khalaifi, who is a Qatari blogger and the founder of a human rights organization, was apprehended on March 1 by Qatar’s dreaded security forces and has not been heard of since. Human rights organizations fear that he is being tortured for speaking out against the dictatorship in Qatar . 

At a Monday press conference, under the auspices of the forum, at the National Press Club, to release poll results supposedly demonstrating support for Islamist and anti-American revolutions in the Middle East, two academics from the University of Maryland admitted they didn’t know anything about the plight of the blogger. 

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, said, “Personally, I’m not aware of this.” He went on to say, however, that the arrest of any reporter by a government in the Middle East is not acceptable.

Steve Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, said he wasn’t aware of the blogger’s plight either but that Arabs favor freedom of the press.

Asked specifically if he would endorse free elections and human rights in Qatar , Telhami said that while he did favor those things, the news conference wasn’t about that “and I welcome any additional questions” and moved on.

The U.S.-Islamic Forum also features Muslim Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison, a vocal opponent of recent congressional hearings into the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S. , and representatives of such groups as the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society. Officials of the repressive Qatari government are sprinkled on various panels throughout the three-day conference. 

While Secretary of State Clinton is speaking to the conference and treating Qatar as a friend, secret cables released by WikiLeaks demonstrate that officials of the State Department do not regard the regime as helping the U.S. in the war on terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

One cable says that the regime has “adopted a largely passive approach to cooperating with the U.S. against terrorist financing” and that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda “exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale.” The cable goes on, “Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.”

Another cable says that “ Qatar will continue to use Al Jazeera as a bargaining tool to repair relationships with other countries, particularly those soured by Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, including the United States .” It also says, “Anecdotal evidence suggests, and former Al Jazeera board members have affirmed, that the United States has been portrayed more positively since the advent of the Obama administration.”

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