The media have struggled to present a clear picture of what you’re getting with Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson. He’s been a company man for ExxonMobil all of his working life and, with a few exceptions, his views on foreign policy are largely a mystery.
However, we’ve found that there’s plenty of evidence to ascertain that the ExxonMobil CEO has a particular affinity for the Islamic totalitarian nation of Qatar.
Tillerson has met with the Qatari head of state countless times within the past couple of years, both inside and outside the Qatar capital of Doha. He usually meets behind closed doors with the leader of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. On U.S. Election Day, Tillerson was in Doha to discussing bilateral cooperation between Exxon and Qatar with Al-Thani. The two also met for business in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Before that, they got together during Tillerson’s February trip to Doha. And, rounding out the recent list of visits, they met in Houston in February 2015.
And Tillerson is much more than a mere business partner to Qatar. He often vociferously compliments the country as a whole, burying its long record of human rights travesties along the way.
In 2009, Tillerson spoke at the Seventh Doha Conference on Natural Gas. “It is evident why Qatar is an example to the world,” Tillerson said at the conference, per ArabianOilandGas.com.
“We must learn from Qatar’s vision and its policies,” he added.
A year later, at another Qatar conference, Tillerson praised "Qatar’s visionary leadership” in the natural gas sector.
At 2011’s World Petroleum Congress in Doha, Tillerson personally commended “the leadership of His Highness.”
The reality in Qatar is far different from what Tillerson presents. “His Highness” presides over a country that is the chief promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
While there is widespread suspicion that elements within Qatar’s government are funding ISIS, the oil-rich regime has overtly provided arms and aid to other Islamic terror groups, such as the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-affiliated terror group in Syria, and Hamas, a Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza. The latter takes in more money from Qatar than any other country.
The Qatari ruling family controls the Al Jazeera news giant, which, before 9/11, was actively commending al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. After the attacks, The New York Times reported on the Al Jazeera studio in Doha: “The channel’s graphics assign him [Bin Laden] a lead role: There is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden’s silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set.”
Today, Al Jazeera is the world’s chief media promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that dozens of U.S. legislators think should be declared a terrorist organization. In 2013, the media outlet faced mass resignations after journalists complained about their pro-Brotherhood biases
And back home, Qatar has an atrocious human rights record.
Freedom House, a “watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world,” consistently classifies Qatar as a “Not Free” country that is an abuser of civil liberties and political rights.
The Economist’s democracy Index classifies Qatar as an “Authoritarian Regime.” Its 2010 index ranked Qatar as less free than countries such as Cuba, China, and Angola.
Migrant workers consist of around 90 percent of the Persian Gulf state’s workforce, and they are employed under slave-like conditions, according to human rights groups. Conditions are so bad for Nepalese migrant workers tasked with building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, that one dies from work-related injuries every two days.
Rex Tillerson’s Qatar is not the real Qatar. One is left to speculate: How many other dictatorial countries has he provided cover for in order to curry favor with their leaders?
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel