DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar has joined the American-led coalition to fight Islamic State, yet the emirate is a haven for anti-Western groups and foreign diplomats have reported seeing cars with Islamic State logos in an affluent bay district.
Such ambiguity runs through Qatari policy.
When the United States sought allies against Islamic State in Sept, Qatar was among the Gulf Arab states that sent its warplanes into action. But while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates welcomed media coverage, Qatar was silent.
There was talk among diplomats that Qatari planes merely flew a reconnaissance mission on the first night of the attacks.
In fact, a security source close to the government said, its planes did attack Islamic State targets in Syria later in the campaign, although that has not been officially confirmed.
Diplomats and analysts said the episode showed two things:
First, Qatar’s decision to join the hostilities was a pragmatic response to pressure from fellow Gulf Arabs, who have rebuked Qatar for backing Islamists during Arab Spring revolts.
Second, diplomats say, Qatar’s reticence about its role suggests that it is also being careful to preserve influence with Islamist forces it believes are the long-term future.
Three years after the start of the Arab Spring, the Middle East is experiencing a backlash against political Islam, and Qatar is trimming its policies. In so doing, the contradictory nature of those policies is being exposed.
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