WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nineteen members of Congress published a letter criticizing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for omitting Hamas from the list of named terrorist groups whose financing Qatar has agreed to combat.
The letter was authored by Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and signed by 19 members of Congress.
The congressional letter, dated November 20, notes, “We are deeply concerned that the joint statement omitted any mention of Hamas, a heinous terrorist network responsible for the murders of innocent American and Israeli citizens, which has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department since 1997.”
On October 30, Secretary Mnuchin ended a weeklong trip to the Middle East with a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to discuss Qatar’s steps towards stopping the flow of money to Islamic terrorist organizations.
A joint statement released by the Department of Treasury on the day of their meeting stated that the U.S. and Qatar would be working together on “counter terrorist financing, with a strong emphasis on threats posed by Hizballah, al-Qaida, the Nusrah Front, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.”
In the letter, the congressmen ask Mnuchin “[t]o reassure Congress of the efficacy of the July 2017 U.S.-Qatar Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), we respectfully request that you provide our offices with additional information, including specific and measurable steps that Qatar has taken to cut off Hamas since the signing of the agreement.” They also “request information on how the [Trump] Administration plans to enforce the MOU, what standards and deadlines have been established for Qatar to make improvements, and what the consequences will be if terrorists’ accounts at financial institutions and other sources of revenue are not shut down.”
This week, Al Thani met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, D.C., during which Tillerson told reporters that the foreign minister is “a frequent visitor, but he’s always welcome.” He reportedly added, “We have a number of important things to discuss, obviously, so pleased he’s here.”
In June, some of the most powerful nations in the Sunni Arab world – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, the Maldives, and Mauritius – severed ties with Qatar, accusing the nation of supporting terrorism and taking sides with Shiite Iran against their Sunni Muslim governments.
Several high-priced advisors who have worked with Qatar or been hired by them in order to fix the country’s image include former Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush, Juan Zarate; and former Deputy Chief of Staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Nick Muzin.
Breitbart News reported this week that a group of Republican and Democrat lawmakers penned a letter to United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley criticizing her for reversing her congressional testimony from this summer, when she stated that Qatar funds Hamas, and instead stating to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that there is a distinction between the “political” and military wings of the Hamas terrorist organization – a major diversion from U.S. policy.
The U.S. government has never recognized a distinction between the “political” and “military” wings of any Islamic terrorist organization. In 1998, one year after Hamas was established, Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin, its founder, stated, “We can not separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”
In late June, Haley told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the crisis between Qatar and its fellow Gulf nations was an opportune time to tell Qatar that it must “quit funding Hamas, quit doing these things in Gaza that they are doing.”
Last month, however, Haley provided a written statement to the Foreign Affairs Committee that “while the Qatari government does not fund Hamas, it does allow Hamas political representatives to be based in Qatar, which Qatar believes limits Iran’s influence and pressure over Hamas. Senior Qatari officials have stated that Hamas’ presence in Qatar does not imply support for the group.”
“This statement implies the U.S. now recognizes a distinction between Hamas political and military wings and finds Qatar’s relations with and sanctuary for Hamas officials to be legitimate, which would be a change in U.S. policy,” the lawmakers wrote to Haley. “Can you reassure us that the administration does not recognize a distinction between Hamas’s political and military wings and does not support Qatar’s relations with and sanctuary for Hamas officials? If so, what steps are being taken to end Qatar’s relations with and sanctuary for Hamas officials?”
Also last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bipartisan Hamas Sanctions Bill (HR 21712), which for the first time ever makes Qatar subject to possible sanctions. The bill, authored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), would slap sanctions on any nation or individual that is found to provide financial and material support to the Gaza-based Sunni-Islamic group Hamas, which has repeatedly engaged in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights through the use of civilians as human shields, among other things.
Prior to it passing through committee, Rep. DeSantis (R-FL), who co-authored the November 20 letter to Secretary Mnuchin, successfully offered an amendment that would require that findings from the investigation mandated by the underlying bill into all direct and indirect funding for Hamas must be reported to Congress. As a result, the Hamas Sanctions Bill now requires reporting of potentially damaging and embarrassing intelligence to Congress about Qatar, even if the State Department potentially decides in the future to avoid slapping sanctions on the supposed U.S. ally by ignoring the Emirates’ overt support for Hamas.