Evidence strongly suggests Qatar was handing the weapons over to Islamic militants
(Jason Howerton) The Obama administration "secretly" approved arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, however, U.S. officials quickly became concerned as evidence suggested Qatar was handing the weapons over to Islamic militants, The New York Times reports, citing a number of United States officials and foreign diplomats.
There is no evidence available that suggests the U.S.-approved weapons were involved in the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead on Sept. 11. But the revelation is sure to ignite speculation.
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But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.
The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from other countries.
The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.
The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers on the ground in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. They were “more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official.
"To do this right, you have to have on-the-ground intelligence and you have to have experience…If you rely on a country that doesn’t have those things, you are really flying blind. When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control," said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser who is now dean of Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
The startling revelations raise even more concerns regarding the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
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