National Campaign Urges Trump to Pressure Qatar Over Terror Support

US President Donald Trump (C-R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (C-L) take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV – A large-scale campaign urging President Donald Trump to put pressure on Qatar, including imposing economic sanctions if necessary, is being launched Monday by a U.S.-based interfaith group., initiated by interfaith group The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, aims to rally tens of millions of Americans to urge Trump and Congress to follow the lead set by other Arab nations, including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, and increase pressure on Qatar over its support of terror.

The campaign, which includes a petition and a full-page open letter published in USA Today from the Fellowship’s founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to President Trump, argues that Qatar’s support for radical Islamist groups is duplicitous and damages U.S. and international efforts to build a reliable coalition to combat extremism in the Middle East.

“Although it is a military ally and strategic partner of the United States, Qatar has offered its political and economic assistance to a variety of Islamist extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch Hamas, as well as the Taliban and even elements of al-Qaeda,” Eckstein said in his letter to Trump.

Eckstein praised the president’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel and his new vision for fighting Islamist extremism. “The Qatari government, which is now embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with its neighbors over its support for a variety of radical causes, has long played a duplicitous role in the region,” Eckstein wrote. “We hope that, as part of your bold new approach to the Middle East, you will use the considerable influence of your office to compel such changes.”

Protesting Qatar’s support for terrorism, the campaign directs Americans to an online petition that urges the Trump administration and Congress to “hold regional governments, including the Kingdom of Qatar, to account for such behavior.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have severed ties with Qatar and shut down land, sea and air routes to the country as well as expelling Qatari diplomats. Sunni Arab nations are accusing the peninsular state of financing and supporting regional Islamist terror groups and bolstering Iran. Qatar has hosted leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood as well as numerous political leaders from Hamas.

While the State Department has thus far remained neutral on the increasing ostracization of Qatar, Trump has reacted enthusiastically, accusing the tiny nation of funding extremism. “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Trump tweeted in response to news that Saudi Arabia had cut ties with its neighbor.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump added in another tweet. “Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” Trump said, claiming partial victory for Saudi Arabia’s decision. “They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.”