U.S. counter-terrorism policy gives cover to terror-funding states
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The unintended product of U.S counter-terrorism policy and money may actually be a sizeable contribution to the promotion of global terrorism.

The official thinking in Washington is that responsibility for terror lies with “rogue” individuals, groups, and movements. But the reality is a few foreign governments play a decisive role in determining the scale of recruitment to extremist causes, and the worst offenders have been at best permitted, and at worst incentivized by our government to support terrorism for their various political objectives. 

Ever since the 1950s, beginning with the Algerian rebellion, Gamal Nasser’s Egypt and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, as well as the earliest airplane hijackers from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, U.S. policy makers have sought to moderate real and potential terrorists by mollifying their sponsors — often with money. This has had the perverse effect of incentivizing regimes to sustain their support for terrorism while outwardly making a show of “clamping down.” 

Two contemporary examples stand out: U.S. support of the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose schools continue to teach, according to reports, the right and duty to kill Jews and whoever stands with them; and its protection of Qatar, whose Al Jazeera broadcaster reaches tens of millions of Muslims with daily incitements to violence. The bloodshed and instability caused by these foreign policy choices overshadow the benefits.

Since 1994, the U.S government has subsidized the Palestinian Authority directly with some $5.6 billion, officially for “promoting the prevention or mitigation of terrorism against Israel; fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that may aid Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic prospects; and meeting humanitarian needs.” 

This generous support package has not prevented the PA from publishing guides on how to stabs Jews, or textbooks for nine-year-olds with poems such as “The clash of weapons is pleasant to my ear, And the flow of blood gladdens my soul, As well as a body thrown upon the ground, Skirmished over by the desert predator.”  The PA apologizes when it needs to, but doesn’t think there is any credible reason to believe the U.S. will withdraw its support. The alternative would be far worse, they say. Meanwhile, an entire generation of struggling youths consumes violent anti-Semitic propaganda on a daily basis. 

The PA’s information warfare is provincial compared to the Arab world’s largest propaganda machine and worst offender. Al Jazeera reaches some 40 million viewers across the Arabic-speaking world, including many communities in the U.S., with a combative and provocative Islamist message. It deliberately incites passions by glorifying images of Islamist violence and the funerals of Muslim “martyrs” who die fighting non-Muslim. It praises ISIS’s military feats and at one point broadcasted without context its leader’s appeals to subjugate and cleanse religious minorities. Among its audience, support for Jihad is overwhelming.  It is not hard to see why many viewers are driven to extremism by its coverage.

Al Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar. The U.S. government supports that government because it has 11,000 troops stationed at Qatar’s al Udeid air base. The Qatari government also invests extraordinary sums in U.S. politics and business.

Political support however, is as fungible as money. Qatar’s government leverages America’s backing to underpin an adventurous foreign policy that seeks to overthrow the status quo in the Middle East by supporting radical Islamist groups. This policy begins with Turkish and Iranian alliances, and ends with very strong support for the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda affiliates in Syria, whom Al Jazeera describes as “moderate opposition” on air.

The clear lesson is that financial support from the U.S government has not and cannot change the core beliefs of sovereign or semi-sovereign entities. The financial and political support that the U.S government gives to the Palestinian Authority and Qatar is essential to these governments’ sponsorship of terror.

As Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE said to Pakistan this week: "No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials." We had better hope Trump takes his own advice.  

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University. He is a former professional staff member of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.