King’s academics, Qatari military, and the £26m teaching deal

KING’S faculty are teaching Qatari military officers as part of a £26 million contract at the Joaan Bin Jassim Joint Command and Staff College in Doha. 

Seven faculty members, including war expert Dr Krieg, from the Defence Studies Department are currently teaching strategy and leadership to Qatari Majors and Lieutenant Colonels.

The “military education” is modelled on the education King’s is currently delivering at the UK Staff College in Shrivenham, where King’s faculty are “preparing [officers] for the next conflict.”

The Qatari government, which has offered King’s the three-year teaching contract, has been criticised for funding Hamas, a UK-classified terrorist organisation, with hundreds of millions of dollars.

The College refused to disclose how much money it is receiving from Qatar for this military teaching.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also accused Qatar of inadvertently funding Hamas rocket-firing and tunnel building which threatens Israeli security.

Dr David Roberts, a member of the Defence Studies Department at King’s and an expert on Qatar, said Qatar is funding Hamas to run the administration of Gaza, but “not because Qatar secretly wants to kill Israelis.”

“Qatar has actively sought to bolster relations with Israel over the years by opening diplomatic offices in Doha.”

Hamas also runs its political bureau from Doha, the Qatari capital.

“I’d suggest that Qatar wants to bring the two together for peace talks at some (very) far off stage in the future,” Dr Roberts added.

Wealthy in natural gas, the emirate has also recently been accused of financing Islamist groups across the region. A New York Times editorial alleged that Qatar has been funding the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra.

Dr Roberts pointed out that “there appears to be some kind of a relationship between Qatar and the extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra.”

He went on to assert that, similar to the case with Hamas, Qatar builds these relationships to bring such powerful groups “to the negotiation table.”

Professor Denise Lievesley, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy, said that Qatar is a “comparatively liberal” country in the region, and that though she has concerns, on balance, engagement and involvement in the Middle East is better than withdrawal.

She added that the partnership will also “expose Qatari officers to liberal ideas.”

However, there have been instances where scholars’ intellectual freedom has been compromised. For instance, scholars at the Brooking Institute in Doha recently said they felt they couldn’t freely criticise the Qatari government.

Professor Lievesley stressed that the academic freedom of King’s staff is “high on the agenda” and that to her knowledge, King’s staff have “felt free to ask uncomfortable questions about the regime.”

This article was featured in the November 2014 print edition of Roar.

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