Jan. 29, 2019
Last December, Interpol quietly removed a “red notice”—a computerized flag notifying police across the world that an individual is wanted for arrest by an Interpol member state—from Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a Qatari-based nonagenarian cleric wanted in Egypt in connection to violent protests following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government of Mohammad Morsi.
Qaradawi has long been central to the ongoing conflict between Qatar and its Gulf and its Arab neighbors—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain—who accuse the small peninsula state of harboring and funding Islamist terrorists and insurrectionists who seek to destabilize the region. The red notice dismissal is a win for Qaradawi’s patron, Qatar, which has refused to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood cleric despite this intense diplomatic and economic pressure. While Qatar updated terror designations last year in response to international criticism, it has stubbornly defended Qaradawi.
It is not immediately clear whether the decision to remove the “red notice” was taken at Qatar’s direct intercession. But it is clearly a reflection of how the smaller nation has skillfully wielded influence in a manner that outsizes its larger neighbors. This influence has allowed Qatar to defiantly ignore international criticism over its record of playing host and supporter to terrorists and extremists, especially Yusuf Qaradawi.
To understand why Qatar remains defiantly supportive of Qaradawi requires understanding the significant role he plays in Qatari affairs and in Qatar’s larger influence strategy.