Was Qatar Funding Islamist Rebels in Mali? Maybe. Why? Not Sure.

by ptinti


The tiny, hydrocarbon rich emirate of Qatar stands accused of providing cash and weapons to Islamist rebels in northern Mali. But serious questions remain as to whether these allegations have merit and how support for jihadist groups throughout the Sahel and southern Sahara fits into Qatar’s broader foreign policy goals.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Mali’s newly elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has wasted no time reaching out to international partners as he seeks to rebuild his war torn country. Mr. Keita has made trips or sent high-level delegations to meet with counterparts throughout West Africa and the Maghreb, as well as Europe, but the tiny gulf emirate of Qatar was a surprising choice for one of his first trips abroad.

Qatar’s leadership has spent the better part of the last two decades cultivating its image as a willing mediator and pragmatic regime guided by a realist approach to foreign policy. Yet Mr. Keita’s trip comes at a time when Qatar is adjusting to seismic shifts in the political landscape across the Middle East and North Africa. As Qatar seeks to recalibrate its foreign policy to the new geopolitical realities of its region, analysts and diplomats are openly wondering what a more assertive Qatari foreign policy might look like, and what repercussions it might hold for international peace and security.

At the heart of these questions is the issue of Qatar’s support for Islamist movements abroad. While most analysts understand the rationale behind Qatari support for rebel groups during the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and in the ongoing campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Qatar’s alleged support for other movements abroad, particularly jihadist movements in Africa, remains one of the more opaque trends in the…

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