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The proof FIFA gave the 2022 World Cup to sponsors of terror

Monday, March 24, 2014 by Dailymail
  • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew ambassadors from Qatar in protest at country's support for destabilising factions

  • The sermons of extreme Islamist cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi are regularly broadcast on Qatari state television

  • Al-Qaradawi is banned from entering the USA, UK and France

  • The Doha-based International Centre for Sport Security's vice-president retweeted a campaign to raise funds for Syrian jihadists

On March 5 this year, a strange thing happened. Several countries withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. They did so in protest at the country's support for destabilising factions in the region, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and its continued embracement of an extreme Islamist cleric, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose sermons are regularly broadcast on state television.

Al-Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States since 1999, from the United Kingdom since 2008 and even Qatar's great western ally France banned him in 2012.

So more western interference, one might presume. We haven't  a great track record in the region, to be fair. If Qatar is rigidly  committed to self-determination, it cannot end up worse off than Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Except it wasn't the western ambassadors who went home.

Announcement: FIFA president Sepp Blatter named Qatar as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup in December 2010

The countries protesting about Qatari associations were Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. If FIFA possessed alarm bells, and it is unlikely, they should be ringing now.

Middle East politics is horribly complex. Some of the motivations here involve self-preservation as much as moral outrage. Al-Qaradawi believes the Muslim Brotherhood 'righteous' and as that organisation brought down the Mubarak government in Egypt, similar agitation is greatly feared in other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and  the UAE.

This year the UAE has sentenced 30 Emiratis and Egyptians to prison sentences for forming a Muslim Brotherhood cell.

They regard it as a terrorist organisation. The very least that can be said, though, is that Qatar has controversial allegiances: the Al-Nusra Front in Syria that pledges loyalty to Al-Qaeda, for instance.

Of course, we're just jealous. That is the default reaction. Jealous because England didn't get the World Cup. That is why we bring up the heat, the claims of bribes, the worker deaths and the long-standing links to terrorism and terrorists that set Qatar apart from many of the countries in the Gulf.

Mention that Qatari World Cup officials are palling around with and financing the powerful anti-Semites of Hamas, query whether we should be in business with these people, and the presumption in some quarters is that it is all part of a cynical ploy to get the tournament by the back door.

It isn't. It is more serious than that. Much more serious, even, than simply placing the odd Qatari World Cup committee member in a room with a Hamas government official who advocates the killing of Jews, as reported in this column last week, more serious than a former president of the Qatar Football Association being named by the United States as a significant Al-Qaeda financier.

Since the early 1990s, the government of Qatar, senior leaders and royal family members have provided material support and safe haven to known members of Al-Qaeda, affiliated groups and other violent extremists. This is where the World Cup is going. The least of our worries, actually, is whether it is hot or plays havoc with the Premier League calendar.

Extreme: The sermons of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi are regularly broadcast on Qatari state television

Qatar is a hugely wealthy state with a lot of foreign business partners ready to excuse them. The argument runs that their foreign policy is unpredictable or simply independent. They are with Al-Qaeda's allies in Syria but against them in Yemen. They talk to all sides.

Yet, increasingly, even in the Middle East, neighbouring governments see a pattern emerging. Qatar backs the extremists with funds (Hamas), weapons (Al Nusra) and uses its charities, including the Doha-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), to raise funds for jihadist groups.

In November 2011, the Qatar 2022 World Cup Supreme Committee announced the ICSS would aid in security planning for the tournament. On Twitter, on July 15, 2013, its vice-president, Mohammed Hajjaj Al Hajri, retweeted a campaign to raise funds for Syrian jihadists. Sleep tight all.

The devil is in the details, as ever. Secret service cables that came out as part of Wikileaks detail Bahrain's worry about Qatar's links to Al-Qaeda in the  Arabian peninsula. King Hamad  confronted Adam Ereli, the US ambassador to Bahrain, with this fear in an hour-long conversation on January 12, 2010 — the same year the 2022 World Cup is awarded.

Venue: An artists's impression of the Al-Khor stadium in Doha which will host the World Cup

Hamad informed Ereli that at a meeting of the Gulf heads of state in December, he had told Qatar's representative, Emir Hamad Bin Al Khalifa Al Thani, 'We need to be clear about the threat — and know who you are with.' The Emir replied: 'I need to be in touch with them.' He meant Al-Qaeda.

The cable states that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia then asked: 'Are you mad?’ Increasingly, one feels we must be, too.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, regarded as 'the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks' according to the United States Commission Report, worked as a project engineer at the Qatari Ministry of Electricity and Water between 1992 and 1996, and lived for some of that time on a farm belonging to government official Abdullah bin Khaled al Thani, who had invited him in from Pakistan.

Awaiting trial: Khalid Sheik Mohammed is regarded as 'the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks'

Abdullah bin Khaled al Thani was Qatar's Minister of Interior from 2001 to June 2013, including the time of the successful World Cup bid. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is now detained awaiting trial for his part in terrorist atrocities including the 9/11 attacks, the 1993 assault on the World Trade Centre, the Bali bombings and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Abdullah bin Khaled al Thani was described by former CIA agent Robert Baer as an Al- Qaeda 'sympathiser and fellow traveller'. Former US Counterterrorism Director Richard Clarke thought him to have 'great sympathy for Osama Bin Laden and great sympathy for terrorist groups'. He alleged the minister was 'using his personal money and ministry money to transfer to Al-Qaeda front groups that were allegedly charities'.

This man was a senior figure in the Qatar government at the time they hopped into bed with FIFA, do not forget.

Terror: Khalid Sheik Mohammed is detained awaiting trial for his part in atrocities including the 9/11 attacks

There are files full of this stuff if you know where to look. A United Nations website, ReliefWeb, which provides information on humanitarian relief efforts, revealed that Qatar Charity collaborated with the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Education in Gaza in 2009 to build Hamas-run schools.

According to reports on Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, and multiple other public sources including Hamas government websites, these schools now provide military training to  students as part of the Al-Futuwwa programme.

On January 7, 2014, the Ministry of Education announced that 13,000 students would take part this year. Activities include learning how to load and shoot AK-47 rifles, how to scale buildings using rope and other practical military studies, some involving in the field experience with members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, the military-terrorist wing of Hamas.

In 2003, a court hearing the case against Enaam Arnaout, a Syrian American who used charitable donations to fund fighters in Bosnia, was told by a former Al-Qaeda operative that the Qatar Charitable Society, funded in part by the Qatar government, provided funding for early Al-Qaeda operations.

Host city: Doha will have six stadiums hosting matches at the 2022 World Cup

There are simply too many links, this network is too great, for us to pretend these are isolated instances of misguided individuals operating independently of government policy; or that this is merely part of talking to all sides in an argument. The questions now raised are too big to be dismissed as a silly smear campaign motivated by disgruntled bid failures.

Qatar has systematic and long-standing associations with some extremely dangerous people and information to support these allegations are established and in the public domain. Even if these many tentacles were unknown, Qatar was still handed the 2022 World Cup in controversial circumstances. Piecing this all together makes FIFA's decision scarcely believable.

This goes beyond discussions around whether a stadium can be air-conditioned, Jack Warner is a crook, or the calendar is disrupted. Even the alleged tolls of dead construction workers are as nothing compared to what might have been financed and plotted by some of Qatar’s friends.

Official: Jack Warner is a former vice-president of FIFA

The laziest, most dangerous attitude, therefore, is that nothing can be done, or this is just the western world appalled that a football tournament has gone to the Middle East.

In the main, it really doesn’t matter where the World Cup goes. It just shouldn’t go to them.

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