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Obama-Era Deal To Give Hamas Credibility On World Stage Backfires

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The U.S. played a role in setting up the Hamas office in Qatar during the Obama administration, aiming for indirect communication and conflict mediation.

However, the recent Oct. 7 attack has shifted attitudes, prompting calls to reassess the office’s role.

There are differing views on the U.S. response, with suggestions to end support for Hamas in Qatar and seek consequences for states violating this policy.

“For many years now, both the United States and Israel have been living in a policy fantasy world where we have tolerated Hamas’ existence in Doha and believed that Doha would be a moderating influence,” Richard Goldberg said.

“That thesis was disproven on Oct. 7, so whatever has happened in the last few years, it doesn’t matter because Oct. 7 now stands as the new reality,” he added.

“It disproves anybody’s hypotheses that Hamas would somehow become a governing entity, not a terrorist group.”

“The presence of the Hamas office shouldn’t be confused with endorsement but rather establishes an important channel for indirect communication,” Qatar’s Ambassador to Washington Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani wrote.

“Hamas was going to go somewhere, and the Qataris wanted to host it,” Steven Simon said.

“Of course, it was discussed with the United States, and we said, ‘go ahead.'”

“I think there was broad agreement, first of all, that there was no point in trying to block Qatar from hosting these guys… but there might be an advantage to it, and certainly that was the Israeli perspective because the Israelis were using the Qataris as a cut-out to deal with Hamas,” Simon explained.

“Hamas leadership needed a place where it had unfettered access to media, to communications and simple infrastructure of care and feeding, and a place, of course, where they would be safe, and Doha was a great place for that,” he said.

“They would have found a comfortable environment — that the people they dealt with on a day-to-day basis, the Qatari government in particular, would be comfortable dealing with them.”

“So it sort of worked in terms of intra-Gulf rivalries… then, it works for Qatar because they, like a lot of these smaller Gulf states, fancies itself a big player, and here was a chance to be a big player because they were a pivotal factor in the policy arena involving Israel and the United States, among others,” he added.

“They had leverage. They had some juice, and they kind of liked that.”

“There has to be a policy decision that we will no longer tolerate a state sponsor or safe harbor for Hamas, period,” Goldberg argued. “If that is the policy of the United States, the next question is: What are the consequences for any state that violates that policy?”

“We are not stuck there. We have other options in the region,” he said.

“I’m sure other Gulf countries who want major strategic defense commitments from the U.S. would happily pay for the relocation of our forces to their country.”

“We should absolutely start that process, no matter what,” he continued.

“We do not need to be there. They do not have us over a barrel… the Qataris believe that we are owned by them because we have a base there. They deserve a wake-up call.”

Qatar defends its role, emphasizing constructive mediation efforts and the release of hostages.

“These narratives create obstacles for constructive mediation efforts and aim to derail negotiations,” Al Thani wrote.

“Almost as soon as the conflict began, Qatar became the target of a sustained disinformation campaign about the nature of our role as a mediator for peace in the region.”

“The release of several hostages over the past week shows that Qatar’s policy of engaging with all sides can yield positive results,” he added.

“Avoiding the further loss of civilian lives and securing the release of hostages should be the priority for all. Open channels of communication can lead to lasting peace.”

The situation remains complex, with ongoing negotiations and differing perspectives on Qatar’s involvement.

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