The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.
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 Qatar and other countries . . .
Although NATO provided air support that proved critical for the Libyan rebels, the Obama administration wanted to avoid getting immersed in a ground war, which officials feared could lead the United States into another quagmire in the Middle East.
As a result, the White House largely relied on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, two small Persian Gulf states and frequent allies of the United States. Qatar, a tiny nation whose natural gas reserves have made it enormously wealthy, for years has tried to expand its influence in the Arab world. Since 2011, with dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa coming under siege, Qatar has given arms and money to various opposition and militant groups, chiefly Sunni Islamists, in hopes of cementing alliances with the new governments. Officials from Qatar and the emirates would not comment . . .The Times makes it appear that any U.S. arms that wound up in the hands of the bad guys was totally unintentional, because it relied entirely on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to distribute the arms. It also tells us the U.S. is not directly arming rebels in Syria, but it reported in October that the U.S. had approved arming the Syrian rebels covertly, relying on Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ship the arms directly to the rebels, most of which are going to hard-line Jihadists. That article mentioned a secret trip then-CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus had made to Turkey to oversee the process of "vetting, and then shaping, an opposition that the U.S. thinks it can work with." The CIA, according to the Times, was directing the operation from Turkey. Petraeus' direct involvement contradicts his own views stated in a recently-disclosed interview he had with Fox News correspondent Kate McFarland during which he expressed his doubts about the U.S. involvement in Libya or elsewhere in the Middle East given the costly experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What perplexes me is how the liberals who were so vocal in their opposition to the Bush administration's interventionist approach in the Middle East are nowhere to be found when the Obama administration perpetuates the same self-defeating policies. Why do we care who runs Syria, Libya or any of these countries in that part of the world? They have nothing in common with us, and no change in the leadership of those countries is going to benefit our country in any material way. The best thing we could do to help the region is to stop meddling in their affairs and sending massive amounts of arms that wind up in the hands of people with bad intentions who are wreaking havoc and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, not to mention our own soldiers and civilians, and develop our own energy resources at home.