The tiny, gas-rich emirate has pumped tens of millions of dollars through obscure funding networks to hard-line Syrian rebels and extremist Salafists, building a foreign policy that punches above its weight. After years of acquiescing — even taking advantage of its ally’s meddling — Washington may finally be punching back.
ABU DHABI and DOHA — Behind a glittering mall near Doha’s city center sits the quiet restaurant where Hossam used to run his Syrian rebel brigade. At the battalion’s peak in 2012 and 2013, he had 13,000 men under his control near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. “Part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), they are loyal to me,” he said over sweet tea and sugary pastries this spring. “I had a good team to fight.”
Hossam, a middle-aged Syrian expat, owns several restaurants throughout Doha, Qatar, catering mostly to the country’s upper crust. The food is excellent, and at night the tables are packed with well-dressed Qataris, Westerners, and Arabs. Some of his revenue still goes toward supporting brigades and civilians with humanitarian goods — blankets, food, even cigarettes.
He insists that he has stopped sending money to the battle, for now. His brigade’s funds came, at least in part, from Qatar, he says, under the discretion of then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah. But the injection of cash was ad hoc: Dozens of other brigades like his received initial start-up funding, and only some continued to receive Qatari support as the months wore on. When the funds ran out in mid-2013, his fighters sought support elsewhere. “Money plays a big role in the FSA, and on that front, we didn’t have,” he explained. Continue reading →
By Edward Johnson and Jason ScottSep 24, 2014 4:31 AM GMT+0200
An 18-year-old man shot dead by Australian police after stabbing two officers was a terrorism suspect under investigation for waving an Islamic State flag in a shopping center.
The teenager attacked two counter-terrorism officers yesterday evening outside a Melbourne police station, where he was due to be interviewed about his behavior, Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters today. The man’s passport had recently been canceled on security grounds, Colvin said.
Australia raised its terrorism alert to the highest level in a decade this month, citing the threat posed by supporters of Islamic State extremists. Last week, authorities said police foiled an alleged beheading plot by the group after carrying out the nation’s largest ever anti-terrorism raid.
The incident last night “indicates there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said en route to New York, where he is attending a United Nations Security Council meeting on how to tackle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Australia will send 600 military personnel, including SAS troops, and eight FA18 Super Hornets to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for a dramatic escalation of the multinational effort to contain the Islamic State that now holds parts of northern Iraq and Syria.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the mobilisation and deployment from Darwin, where he is about to tour Arnhem Land. It followed another beheading, this time of an English aid worker, by Islamic State militants.
The troops include 400 air-related personnel to support the deployment of the fighter jets. An Early Warning and Control aircraft and an aerial refuelling aircraft will also be sent from Amberley airbase in the next week. Continue reading →
By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, November 27, 1:04 PM
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — A state security court in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday sentenced five activists who have campaigned for political freedoms in the oil-rich Gulf federation to prison terms of up to three years.
The UAE has faced an outcry from rights groups over the trials, which were held in the country’s highest court that normally tries terrorism suspects and has no recourse for appeal.
The UAE has not been hit by the Arab Spring unrest that has spread across much of the rest of the Middle East, including neighboring Bahrain. But the activists’ trial appears to reflect Abu Dhabi’s strategy of snuffing out any sign of dissent that could pose a challenge to the tight political controls in country.
The three-judge panel sentenced one prominent blogger, Ahmed Mansour, to three years in prison. The others received two-year jail terms, including Nasser bin Gaith, an economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris’ Sorbonne university. Bin Gaith also served as a legal adviser to the UAE’s armed forces until April, when he was taken into custody from his Dubai home by federal security agents.