House Foreign Affairs chair: Turkey and Qatar terror support risks "significant," "unpleasant" consequences

 

Al Monitor's insidery Congress Pulse on Tuesday conveyed details from the day's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on "Hamas' benefactors," noting that lawmakers emerged from the panel echoing witnesses who blasted Qatar and Turkey for supporting the Palestinian terror group and assessing that the two countries "could face financial and other penalties if they continue to support Hamas and other US-designated terrorist organizations." The outlet quoted committee chairman Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) emphasizing that Washington "must make our message clear" to Ankara and Doha, that if they "help finance Hamas, there will be significant consequences and they will be unpleasant." Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), used his testimony to among other things call for the Treasury Department to designate and sanction individuals from the two countries, which he has categorized as at best "frenemies" of the United States, distinguishing them from both allies and enemies. Both Qatar and Turkey have since the beginning of the year found themselves engulfed by scandals linked to their consolidation - along with Sunni extremist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and ISIS - into one of three regional blocs. Turkish outlets were describing Turkey and Qatar as allies early in the year, and they were in turn linked to ISIS once the Islamist terror organization burst into world consciousness. News subsequently emerged that Istanbul's former police chief had accused the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of facilitating the movement of a Saudi businessman who has been widely accused of being a terror financier. Meanwhile Qatar spent the summer - per just one of many headlines that appeared in Arabic media outlets and beyond - "hit[ting] back at claims it backs extremists." Qatar's pushbacks fell short of total success. Earlier this week The New York Times published a wide-ranging expose on Doha's links to terror and extremist groups. Meanwhile the U.S.'s traditional Arab and Israeli allies have found themselves in a de facto second regional camp, opposite both the Turkish-Qatari extremist axis and an expansionist Shiite bloc anchored by Iran. Simon Henderson - a Washington Institute fellow and the director of the think tank's Gulf and Energy Policy Program - suggested last week that a recent Saudi delegation to Doha upbraided the Qataris over their foreign policy in a manner that involved "straight talk at the least and possibly even outright threats."

 

News outlets conveyed reports – beginning Saturday and extending through Monday – of increased tensions between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Hamas terror organization, with Abbas slamming Hamas for, per Agence France Presse, ‘effectively running a parallel administration in Gaza.’ Abbas reportedly threatened to terminate the unity agreement the rival groups had agreed to earlier this year, telling journalists that “there won’t be any partnership” if “Hamas won’t accept a Palestinian state with one government.” Abbas had already last month lashed out against Hamas for failing to accept in July what were functionally the same ceasefire terms more than a month later, and top figures from his U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) have gone so far as to call on the terror group to acknowledge that it had lost. Over the course of the 50-day hot conflict, dozens of terror tunnels running between Israel and the Gaza Strip were destroyed, several top Hamas commanders were killed in Israeli airstrikes, and roughly two-thirds of the group’s rocket arsenal was deployed or destroyed. Meanwhile, the United Nations and the PA appealed to international donors, asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa noted that foreign governments were hesitant to provide funds given Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip and the group’s commitment to eradicating the Jewish state. The Times of Israel reported that this latest conflict “was the third in less than six years” and quoted Mustafa as saying that Hamas’s control of Gaza has concerned donors weary of funding reconstruction in a region that had the potential to see future conflict. Analysts and diplomats - including those from the US, Europe, and the Palestinian Authority - have long emphasized that Hamas must be disarmed to avoid what has been described as the "Hezbollah model," a situation under which the PA would gain functional control over the Gaza Strip's civil institutions while Hamas maintained actual control via superior arms. The scenario, it is feared, would provide Hamas a relatively free hand to pursue attacks against Israel, which would in turn be called upon to eschew retaliation so as not to damage nominally PA infrastructure. Taking political control of the Gaza Strip while allowing Hamas to keep its arsenal would also put the PA in violation of blackletter treaties - most specifically Oslo II and the Wye Accords - that sharply limited the types of munitions permitted in the territory. Congressional funding to the PA is heavily conditioned on the body meeting its signed treaty obligations.

 

The Israel Ministry of Science has announced a call for proposals in a new research program devoted to developing scientific and technological innovations for Israel’s elderly. The program’s budget for 2015 provides up to NIS 15 million (about $4.2 million) in grants for Israeli researchers working toward practical solutions for the elderly, and encourages interdisciplinary research projects in technology, life sciences/medical sciences and social/behavioral sciences. Innovation in technology may include new frontiers in information and communication, nano-medicine (diagnosis and treatment), medical robotics and bioengineering. The life sciences and medical sciences area is meant for scientists working in cell and molecular biology, immunology, brain research, and specific and personalized diagnosis for the elderly. The social and behavioral sciences concentration is expected to attract researchers interested in improving social participation and status of the elderly, their cognitive and mental state, socio-economic and public-health evaluation and planning, and more. This new research grant program came out of Israel’s largest-ever professional conference on the biology of aging and longevity, held at Bar-Ilan University on Israel Science Day last March under the auspices of the Ministry of Science. (via Israel21c)


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