Hamas Warning of Egyptian/Saudi Intelligence Penetration of Gaza

[SEE:  Hamas official: Palestinian Tamarod group was trained by Egyptian intelligence]

Egypt denies intelligence agents working in Gaza

MA AN NEWS
CAIRO, Egypt (Ma’an) — An Egyptian security official on Thursday denied claims by Hamas that Egyptian intelligence agents were working in the Gaza Strip.

“Such false accusations are part of attempts by the Hamas movement to discharge its domestic crisis to Egypt,” the security official told Ma’an.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas security sources said a Palestinian had been arrested the southern Gaza Strip. The man, identified only as M.M., admitted to running a cell for Egyptian intelligence, Hamas security officials said.

They added that the suspect and his group attempted to “disseminating rumors amongst citizens, drivers, and the Gaza society seeking to implicate Hamas and Al-Qassam Brigades in the events in Sinai and the ongoing unrest in Egypt.”

Hamas sources said the group had provided Arab media outlets with fabricated stories. The cell had worked with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian Authority intelligence services, the Hamas security officials said.

PTSD, Or PTGD (Post Traumatic GUILT Disorder)?—Living With the Guilt

‘Back Home’: Veteran suicides twice as high as civilian rate

dog tag
Photo by Chase Cook/News21
Mary Anne Burke holds her son’s dog tag after completing a 16-mile walk throughout downtown Washington, D.C. Burke’s son, Raymond Matthew Burke, died by suicide in 2001 while he was on leave from his naval station. Mary Ann Burke and her husband, Raymond Burke, have participated in every Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk and plan to complete two more walks next year.

Editor’s note: This report is part of a project on post-9/11 veterans in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.

Fifth in a series of articles.

Veterans are killing themselves at more than double the rate of the civilian population, with about 49,000 taking their own lives between 2005 and 2011, according to data collected over eight months by News21.

Records from 48 states show the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared with a civilian rate of about 14 per 100,000. The suicide rate among veterans increased an average 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011, or more than double that of the 1.1 percent civilian rate, according to News21’s analysis of states’ mortality data.

Nearly one in every five suicides nationally is a veteran — 18 to 20 percent annually — compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population.

“Anytime a veteran who fought our enemies abroad or helped defend America from within our borders dies by their own hand, it’s completely unacceptable,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, told an American Legion conference in Washington earlier this year. The suicide rate has remained consistently high, he said, adding that more work was needed to address gaps in veterans’ mental health care.

“It’s not enough that the veteran suicide problem isn’t getting worse,” he said. “It isn’t getting any better.”

Law requires prevention efforts

A 2007 law required the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase its suicide prevention efforts.

In response to the Joshua Omvig Veteran Suicide Prevention Act — named for an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide in 2005 — the department’s efforts include educating the public about suicide risk factors, providing additional mental health resources for veterans and tracking veteran suicides in each state. The VA’s mental health care staff and budget have grown by nearly 40 percent over the last six years and more veterans are seeking mental health treatment.

The law mandated that the VA design a comprehensive program to reduce veteran suicides. Provisions included training VA staff in suicide-prevention techniques, factoring mental health concerns in overall veteran health assessments, providing referrals at veterans’ request to treatment programs and designating suicide-prevention counselors at VA medical centers. It also required the VA to work with the other federal departments on researching the “best practices” for preventing suicides.

VA efforts since 2007 have shown some results. The Veterans Crisis Line — a national phone line — has experienced a steady increase in the number of calls, texts and chat session visits from former soldiers struggling with suicidal thoughts. In 2007, its first year, 9,379 calls went to the crisis line. Each year the call volume has increased, reaching a high of 193,507 calls in 2012, totaling about 840,000 overall, according to the VA.

“It’s discouraging to keep looking at the [suicide] rates, and we have to keep plugging away,” said Dr. Jan Kemp, the VA national suicide-prevention coordinator, and program manager of the crisis line. But she said without resources such as the crisis line, “the rates would be higher.”

The VA is analyzing mortality data collected from states and Department of Defense records to try to understand veteran suicides. The task has been “almost impossible” until recent years, Kemp said, because the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not track veteran deaths and most veterans are not enrolled in the VA system.

Suicide statistics

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Tracking veteran suicides

Veterans commit suicide at double and sometimes triple the rates of civilian suicides, with the rates varying from state to state. The veteran suicide rate has grown annually at more than double the percentage of the civilian rate. Explore an interactive comparison of veteran suicide rates by state.

News21 sought data on post-9/11 veteran suicides, but state statistics rarely included identifying information or detailed service records. However, a 2012 report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that between 2002 and 2005, 144 veterans of post-9/11 wars committed suicide out of a total veteran population of 490,346. In 2009, 98 men and women from post-9/11 wars took their own lives, according to that same report.

A plurality of veteran suicides has been among those 65 or older, according to the data. About 19 percent of suicides that took place between 2005 and 2011 were veterans between 18 and 44 years old, among the 36 states with available age data. It is important to reach post-9/11 veterans early, Kemp said, to help mitigate a potential increase in suicides as veterans approach those vulnerable ages.

“Maybe we can change that trajectory,” she said.

War can exact a heavy toll on the mental health of soldiers, but veterans have the same risk factors for suicide as the general population, said Craig Bryan, research director at the University of Utah National Center for Veterans Studies. Those factors include feelings of depression, hopelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, a history of trauma and access to firearms.

“Veterans who die by suicide look a lot like Americans who die by suicide,” Kemp said.

Veterans experience periods of readjustment as they reintegrate into civilian life. Traits and training needed to survive in a war zone — like maintaining constant alertness — might contribute to troubling behaviors in civilian life, including edgy feelings while being easily startled, according to the SAMHSA report. Suicide warning signs include feelings of being hopeless, out of control, angry or trapped. Combat veterans might experience a variety of stress reactions, including nightmares, sleeplessness, sadness, feelings of rejection, abandonment or hopelessness. Lack of concentration, aggressive behavior, reckless driving, and increasing use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs are other common struggles.

Clinton Hall, 35, lives in Portland, Ore., working as a supply-chain analyst. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army specialist and was discharged in 2007. One of his close friends, who also was a veteran, committed suicide upon coming home.

“The bad part about it is that he didn’t give us a chance to talk. I mean, if he had just said, ‘Hey, Clint I’m thinking about doing this.’ I could have said, ‘hey, man, I’m thinking about doing it, too. You got to have that conversation. You have to tell somebody, as embarrassing as it is,” he said. “All I ever considered when I thought about [suicide] was the guilt I was feeling and just wanting a way out, wanting to not have those memories anymore.”

Concussions also are a chronic risk factor leading to suicidal thoughts, Bryan said, because head trauma makes people more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. The dangerous daily routines of a soldier — or simply involvement in sports or accidents — increase the risk of injury.

“It turns up the volume on depression,” he said.

In 2010, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asked governors to collaborate on collecting veterans’ suicides information in their states. Through November 2012, according the VA report, 34 states had submitted data and agreements had been forged with eight others to provide information.

News21 filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the raw data collected by the VA to this point, but it was denied because the “disclosure of raw research data poses a serious threat to the scientific process” and because of fears the information would be misinterpreted without peer review.

Most states provided veteran suicide information gleaned from death certificates. VA research, Kemp said, shows death certificates are about 90 percent accurate and “good enough” to help understand veteran suicides.

Veterans are over-represented among suicides, compared with the general population, a trend seen in most states between 2005 and 2011.

For example, in Alaska, veterans were about 14 percent of the population but represented about 21 percent of all suicides in 2010. The same year in Washington, Census data showed veterans were about 11 percent of the population, but state vital statistics showed they represented about 23 percent of suicides.

Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. Arizona’s 2011 veteran suicide rate was 43.9 per 100,000 people, nearly tripling the civilian suicide rate of 14.4, according to the latest numbers from the state health department.

Among states with the widest disparities and highest rates, Idaho had an average annual veteran suicide rate of 49.5 per 100,000 people, according to News21 analysis, compared to a civilian rate of 20 per 100,000. Montana had an average annual veteran suicide rate of 55.9 per 100,000 people and a 23.9 civilian rate.

For the seven-year period, Minnesota had an average suicide rate of 27.7 per 100,000 people, more than double the civilian rate of 13.3, the analysis found.

New Jersey had among the lowest annual veteran suicide rates across the time period, with 17.2 dying by suicide per 100,000 people and a civilian rate of 8.6 Connecticut had a veteran suicide rate of 20.11 per 100,000 people and a civilian rate of 11.

Massachusetts had the smallest disparity and one of the lowest rates, according to the data, with an average annual veteran suicide rate of 12.3 and a civilian rate of 10.3.

About 26 percent of suicides in Oregon were among veterans, with 96 percent of them being male, according to a November 2012 study by the state’s human services department. New21 analysis showed that 24 percent of all Oregon suicides annually were veterans.

As with suicides in general, veterans taking their own lives have been overwhelmingly male — about 97 percent among the 30 states that reported gender demographics. While suicide has traditionally been a problem among white males, it underscores the suicide risks faced by the U.S. veteran population.

In June, the VA hired 1,600 clinicians to assist with mental health counseling for veterans in compliance with an executive order last year from President Barack Obama. This is only part of the solution, Utah researcher Bryan said, because “veterans don’t come to mental health treatment.”

memorial walk photo

Photo by Chase Cook/News21
Memorials to those lost to suicide border the walkways of the George Washington University Yard. Striding between the luminaries are walkers who completed the 16-mile route. About 2,000 illuminated memorials were placed on the lawn and many walkers examined the memorials as they waited for the closing ceremony to begin.

The challenge is understanding suicide in the general population, Bryan said, and then translating those factors for the military and veterans, who are part of a “unique subculture” in the U.S.

“[Veterans] have different rules and different expectations and ways of seeing themselves” and their roles in society, he said. “What we see in society doesn’t always translate as well into the military.”

Part of that culture is mental toughness, he said, along with “elitism” and “feelings of superiority,” mindsets that render traditional suicide prevention methods less effective. “They are very much like elite athletes,” he said of those least likely to complain of pain or injury.

Hall, who was diagnosed with PTSD following his return home, had a message for veterans who might struggle — as he did — with suicidal thoughts:

“Talk to anybody. If you’ve got a number or an email address for your battle buddies, reach out to them. Chances are, they’re feeling the same way you do. If you don’t have anybody to talk to, call the VA. Call the suicide prevention hotline. Hell, if you can find me on Google, contact me and we’ll talk. But don’t do it [commit suicide]. I’m thinking about it, too. I know other people are, too. But don’t do it.”

The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached online or by calling 800-273-8255.

Jeff Hargarten is a former MinnPost intern. Bonnie Campo and and Chase Cook were Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellows for News21 this summer.

The Russian Solution To the Qatar Problem

Qatar is not a real Nation, it is as Bandar Bush described it—“nothing but 300 people…and a TV channel..”   Maybe Obama should have entrusted his Syrian sabotage operation to Bandar, in the first place.  Evidently, the Pig of Qatar wasn’t devious enough, or generous enough to buy victory in the Middle East for his “Islamist” underlings to inherit.   He tried to “squeal-by” in Egypt on a war chest that he only partially filled, because of his insufficient generosity.  He undercut his own plans to buy peace with the masses, before Mursi’s terrorists started inflicting their perverse Takhfiri/Wahhabi false “Shariah” upon the people.  The Egyptians reacted predictably, like any sane people would, rising-up and demanding an end to Islamist rule. 

Failure in Syria was also predetermined by Qatari stinginess with their camel-hide purses.  Even though Bandar is now batting “clean-up” there with his al-Nusra Islamists, there is very little chance that he can stall the forces driving Obama,or buy time for a realignment of resistance forces.  Obama is walking a tightrope, while being pulled in two different directions, between his own Democrat interventionists hanging from his left hand and regular bloodthirsty Republicans (who are always screaming for “fresh meat”) dangling from his right hand.  The Syrian gas attack has only multiplied the tensions and started the tightrope bouncing.  It will take a monumental effort on someone’s part, to help Obama get a grip on the situation…even if that someone is Vladimir Putin.  In this case, Putin must endure the scorn of the West, in order to prevent the prevailing Western cult of death from engaging in its own suicidal impulses.  In the end, he will shine as the real “good guy” in all of this, if only his determined resistance is successful in calming everyone else down. 

It is in this regard that we see the true value of resistance to Obama, especially Eastern (Russian) resistance to Obama and the Western cult of power that he represents.  Obama has to be brought back down to earth, before he can take the next step—pushing the button on regional, or global war.  The massive global groundswell against Western bombing of Syria, which we are now witnessing, represents hope, a glimmer of hope that reason might finally be starting to prevail over greed and bloodlust.  If the human race wishes to continue its miserable existence, then it must get its act together, now.  Qatar is the most pressing problem, but it is, at best, merely a symptom of the mental disease that infects the entire species.

therearenosunglasses@hotmail.com

The Qatar problem

By Jeremy Shapiro

On the face of it, Qatar has been one of the United States’s most valuable allies in the Middle East over the last decade. Qatar hosts a large U.S. Air Force base in the Persian Gulf and has often provided political and financial support for U.S. initiatives in the Middle East. Indeed, Washington has often encouraged Qatari activism to legitimize U.S. diplomacy, including its political support at the Arab League of a potential U.S. strike against Syria.

But Qatar’s role in the United States’s Middle East policy is far more problematic than is commonly recognized. The tiny yet ambitious Gulf emirate has sought to use its immense hydrocarbon wealth to finance and arm civil wars in Libya and Syria, to support Hamas in Gaza, and to mediate disputes in Sudan and Lebanon. Its interest sometimes align with the United States’s — but too often, they do not. The launch of Al-Jazeera America, the news network its government owns, should redirect attention to Doha’s goals and means.

Qatari activism over the last few years has been a mixed blessing for the United States. Indeed, it has often actively and purposefully undermined U.S. efforts on key problems. In Egypt, for example, Qatar’s lavish and unconditional funding of the Morsi government enabled it to avoid taking the difficult steps that the International Monetary Fund (and the United States) believed were necessary to get the Egyptian economy back on track and to compromise with domestic opponents. In Gaza, Qatar helped undermine U.S. efforts to isolate and delegitimize Hamas by its strong and public embrace of its leadership including through high-level visits to Gaza.

In Libya, U.S. efforts to support the formation of a moderate and inclusive Libyan transitional government capable of effectively governing Libya were constantly thwarted and undermined by an independent Qatari policy. While the United States and its other partners tried to promote the opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) on the world stage, Qatar repeatedly and unhelpfully pushed for a more prominent role for alternative opposition groups that were dependent on Qatar. Qatar also funneled weapons and ammunition to Islamist militias outside of the TNC structure, strengthening the voices of groups opposed to the U.S. vision for post-Qaddafi Libya and undermining the TNC’s ability and legitimacy to establish control. According to a senior Israeli official, “Qatar’s reckless conduct in Libya was disastrous. They supported dangerous Islamist actors.” As was often predicted at the time, these practices contributed to Libya’s inability to form an effective central authority and to rein in those militias.

It has been no better in Syria. Qatar emerged after 2011 as arguably the most important external supporter of the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. Qatar has spent, according to news reports, over $3 billion on aid to the opposition. Qatar has been among the opposition’s primary suppliers of arms and ammunition and may have the most influence of any external actor with the fractious Syrian opposition. Many allies pose difficulties for the United States in the Syria context, but Qatar has proven the greatest obstacle to forging allied unity on Syria policy. As in Libya, the Qataris have used their influence to frustrate the efforts of the United States and others to foster unity within the Syrian opposition that is the prerequisite for a negotiated solution to the war. According to press reports, Qatar’s actions — its tendency to support multiple Islamist factions, its willingness to engage with Jihadist actors, and its refusal to channel aid solely through the Syrian Military Council (SMC) — have exacerbated the divisions within the opposition and contributed to the opposition’s refusal to negotiate. As Middle East analyst Mishaal Al Gergawi puts it in Al-Monitor, “[t]he parties Qatar supports … have carried a sectarian and non-cooperative message, at times implied and at others stated outright.”

All of this is a problem for U.S. policy on Syria. While U.S. policy on Syria has many defects, no U.S. policy could hope to restore stability unless the United States forged consensus with the countries commonly considered its allies in Syria. If U.S. airstrikes or lethal assistance were to hasten the fall of the Assad regime, opposition unity would be essential for stability in post-Assad Syria. The recent decision by the Obama administration to arm the Syrian opposition is intended in part to foster opposition unity and empower moderates. But without the cooperation of key U.S. allies, U.S. lethal assistance will only exacerbate opposition divides as sponsors compete to fund their favorite proxies. Allied unity is necessary to ensure a coherent opposition and a unified opposition, in turn, is necessary to achieve the negotiated solution the United States seeks.

So what are the Qataris trying to do? According to Mehran Kamrava of Georgetown University, Qatar seeks the prestige that comes from playing a role on all of the big issues of the day. But, judging from its pattern of activity of the past few years, Qatari activism is also clearly part of a larger Qatari strategy that has been playing out across the Muslim world. As Brian Katulis explains, Qatar sees the Arab Awakening as an opportunity to spread Qatari influence through the establishment of Islamist governments that look to Qatar (and not to Saudi Arabia or the United States) for support and guidance. It is this dual interest in promoting influence and ideology that informs Qatari foreign policy from Libya to Palestine.

In many places, this strategy has meant fostering a government made up of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) related groups that are beholden to their benefactors in Doha. Qatar’s decision to patronize MB movements, as opposed to alternative factions, is driven by two factors.

First, Qatar thinks that it can exercise greater control over the MB than other political movements. When the emir took power in the mid-1990s, the MB was a client without a Sunni Arab patron. This enabled Qatar to position itself as a unique and indispensable ally of the MB, with all of the leverage that entailed. In contrast, Salafi movements, for instance, have long enjoyed the patronage of Saudi Arabia. Should Qatar choose to back Salafi groups, it would find itself in a competition for influence with its regional rival, undermining Qatar’s control of its client.

Second, Qatar probably assesses that the MB is the wave of the future in the Middle East, a movement that resonates with pluralities — if not majorities — in many Arab countries, despite its recent setback in Egypt. While Qatar may be able to acquire comparable influence over secular and liberal groups, which also badly need external support, the Qatari leadership likely believes these movements would not afford it much influence abroad. The former emir’s record of supporting MB organizations throughout the region (with Qatar, itself, being the notable exception) and the emirate’s long-standing relationship with the influential MB-affiliated cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi have given Qatar an enormous advantage in cultivating alliances with emboldened Islamist groups throughout the Middle East.

Qatari leaders might logically fear that the march of populist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, across the Arab world might someday threaten their rule. But, sheltered by its vast wealth, the Qatari government seems confident it can contain the threat posed by potential domestic MB movements in Qatar while supporting the MB abroad.

This Qatari strategy implies that U.S.-Qatari divides are not simply a difference in tactics, as U.S. officials often assert. Nor is Qatar simply filling a U.S. leadership vacuum. As the Libya example demonstrates, Qatar has the capacity to frustrate U.S. goals even when the United States is deeply engaged. Rather, the superficial similarity in U.S. and Qatari goals masks much deeper and more abiding differences about the two countries’ visions for the Middle East. At times, these visions coincide and allow effective cooperation. But when they don’t, Qatar has proven willing to work actively to frustrate important U.S. policy goals.

In Syria, for example, Qatar’s goal of establishing a MB government dependent on Qatar cannot be achieved through a political settlement. The very process of negotiation, particularly one brokered by the United States and Russia, would dilute the influence of the MB within the opposition and require some degree of compromise with elements of the Assad regime. Thus, Qatar’s goals require military victory, first by the opposition forces over the Assad regime and then by Qatar’s political and military proxies over other sponsors’ proxies within the opposition. So, Qatar’s actions have not been aimed at promoting a political solution in Syria, nor have they been aimed at promoting a more coherent opposition.

One of the most conspicuous — and disruptive — manifestations of this approach was Qatar’s overt support for the divisive MB candidate for interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, in March. His selection led nine members of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) to suspend their memberships, undercutting opposition unity, and seemed intended to derail SOC President Moaz Al-Khatib’s initiative to start a dialogue with the regime. Khatib resigned shortly thereafter.

If Qatari involvement in Syria has hindered the prospects for the emergence of a stable, functioning, and representative Syrian opposition, this is not the unintended consequence of a poorly designed or implemented policy. Rather, it is the logical culmination of a strategy that privileges Qatari influence and favored actors over peace in Syria and the stability in the region.

Overall, while Qatar is not necessarily an enemy of the United States, it is certainly not an ally. The usual U.S. government response to such deviationism among partners is to advocate “high-level engagement” to make known U.S. displeasure and to convince the ally of the errors of its ways. But in the Qatari case, engagements at the highest levels on both Libya and Syria (as well as on efforts to get the Qataris to cut off their support to Hamas) have failed to alter Qatari behavior. It is time to recognize this and consider whether the United States needs to reconsider its approach to Qatari activism.

The recent leadership transition in Qatar, in which the emir stepped down in favor of his son, might present some new opportunities for the United States to turn Qatar from its present course. But most analysts agree that there is little indication that the new emir would seek to change Qatari foreign policy. In his maiden speech as emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani seemed to be at pains to demonstrate continuity in foreign policy, vowing to follow his father’s “path” and strongly asserting that Qatar would continue its “independent behavior.” Indeed, Tamim is widely regarded as one of the architects of Qatar’s Libya and Syria policy over the past two years, including his country’s patronage of the MB.

The United States should certainly be open to a more cooperative relationship if Tamim agrees to alter the pattern of recent Qatari policy. But it would be imprudent to assume that the new emir will fundamentally change what Qatar views as a successful policy. If the pattern persists, it will be time to accept that U.S.-Qatari differences do not result from failures to communicate. They are differences over goals in Syria and elsewhere. Accordingly, the United States should cease trying to convince the Qataris that their actions are undermining shared goals and accept their objectives in these cases are not the same as those of the United States. Instead, it is a question of changing the cost-benefit calculus that Qatar faces in its Syria policy. This would be very difficult in the case of Qatar because of its wealth, its role in U.S. basing in the Persian Gulf, and its value to the United States on other geopolitical priorities in which U.S. and Qatari interests are more aligned and Qatar is working well with the United States.

In the end, Qatar is neither an enemy nor an ally of the United States. While the United States cannot build a deep strategic relationship with Qatar, this does not mean it should oppose Qatar at every turn. Rather the United States should realize that it will always have a very transactional relationship with Qatar and thus should seek to get the best deal on every transaction. And, the United States does have some cards to play, and should consider if it decides that the new Qatari government intends to continue Qatar’s recent policies.

In the case of Syria, the United States could try to use its influence with Turkey and Jordan to cut off Qatar’s access to the theater. In Jordan, which fears Qatar’s influence on Islamist actors in Syria, this is not a difficult case to make. But in Turkey, the United States may need to point out that Qatar doesn’t have the intelligence apparatus to support a weapons-delivery process that ensures its cargo reaches the intended recipient with any degree of reliability. It would be very surprising if a significant share of Qatari arms didn’t leak to other groups, including the Kurds given their proximity to shipment routes from Turkey. Even if Bashar al-Assad falls, Qatari efforts may ultimately result in a second civil war that will pit secularists versus Islamists and Arabs versus Kurds and risk the dismemberment of Syria — an outcome that Turkey fears might worsen its Kurdish problem. Concurrently, the United States could try to reduce Qatari influence by encouraging Saudi Arabia, which is more supportive of moderate and secular Syrian factions and more aligned with U.S. goals, to use its financial resources to substitute for Qatar, as new reports indicate may already be happening.

In addition to denying Qatar’s access to Syria, the United States could seek to raise the costs for Qatar of continuing on its current course. The United States could exploit the long-standing Qatari-Saudi rivalry and encourage the Saudis to host Qatari dissidents who challenge the legitimacy of the Thani family and even give them a platform on Al-Arabiya, the Saudi satellite television network (a reversal of the Qatari practice of putting Saudi dissidents on Al-Jazeera). Similarly, the U.S. government could suggest that universities and think tanks invite members of collateral branches of the Thani family at odds with the emir and his branch to events in the United States and elsewhere to demonstrate splits, or at least the perception of splits, within the ruling family. On the international front, the United States could consider embarking on a systematic campaign to publicize the deplorable conditions under which over a million migrant laborers work and live in the emirate. Such negative publicity could tarnish Qatar’s reputation as it gets ready to host the 2022 World Cup and plans a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

On a broader level, dealing with Qatar’s negative effect on U.S. Middle East policies would require changing the terms of the U.S.-Qatari bargain. Qatar is deeply unpopular with its more powerful neighbors and has long sheltered its immense wealth behind a U.S. military presence. It depends on the United States to keep open the shipping lanes that allows its gas to get to the market. But the critical role the United States plays in protecting Qatar from its neighbors buys the United States shockingly little influence with the Qatari government. The Qataris seem to understand that the U.S. desire to play the regional hegemon in the Persian Gulf requires bases in Qatar, giving them all the leverage in the bilateral relationship. They are reinforced in this belief by U.S. officials and military officers who tell them that the U.S. military presence in Qatar is critical to U.S. policy even though its importance is declining dramatically as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan.

The United States could stop reassuring Qatar in this way and, to the contrary, convince it that it has other options for protecting U.S. interests in the Gulf. The existence of such options would undoubtedly focus the Qataris on just how important U.S. protection is to their continued vitality in a very difficult neighborhood. Of course, making this case will actually require devising some realistic alternative basing options. But the first step in doing that is acknowledging the price that the United States is currently paying for its reliance on Qatar.

None of this is easy. But at the end of day, U.S. policy on critical Middle East issues like Syria is being held hostage by the contrary agenda of a tiny country that the United States defends militarily. This is massive failure of diplomacy.

Jeremy Shapiro is a visiting fellow with the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. From 2009-2013, he served in the State Department on the Policy Planning Staff and in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and currently consults for the Policy Planning Staff. The opinions and characterizations in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent officials positions of the United States Government.