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US think tank raises concern over Qatar’s increasing ties with Iran and Islamic extremists

US non-profit think tank, Hudson Institute, organised an event, to hold discussion over “Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood”.

The talk included senior members of the US Congress, retired officials from previous Republican and Democratic administrations, and several scholars and analysts from other think tanks in Washington. The three keynote speakers of the event were former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired Gen. David Petraeus, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News.

The key agenda of the event was to raise concern over Doha and Tehran’s regional policies and their unceasing support to Islamic extremist organizations. Besides condemning Iran’s tactics employed towards destabilizing the region, the speakers openly criticized Qatar’s dual game as it is trying to “play both sides of the street” and its reluctance towards breaking ties with various militant and terrorist organisations across the region.

In the open forum, Leon Panetta addressed a warning to the audience that the world is currently witnessing more “flashpoints” than at any other time since the end of World War II.

In his speech, Panetta also urged the Trump administration to avoid making the same mistake which his predecessor made. He pointed out that previous administration under President Barack Obama lost credibility when it failed to follow its self-imposed “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He stressed on the importance of “keeping your word,” arguing that US administration should adhere to the agreement signed with Iran over its nuclear energy program.

Panetta criticized Iranian policies and at the same time urged the world to be wary of Qatar, as Doha had a “mixed record” in terms of countering violent extremism. It wasn’t only Panetta who expressed doubts over Qatar’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Steve Bannon and Dennis Ross shared similar doubts.

Brad Sherman, the second-ranked Democrat in the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Qatar’s play of policies ‘political gymnastics’ as Doha calls itself to be a US ally while continuing to support militant groups designated as terrorists by the US.

Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, not only described Qatar’s behavior as “unhelpful”, but also called on it to stop backing the Muslim Brotherhood and to recall its ambassador from Iran.

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