Friday, April 25, 2003

This is bizarre....

A planned Texas A&M University campus in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar could open by the fall.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday approved a regional A&M campus in the capital city of Doha that would award A&M engineering degrees to students from Middle Eastern countries.

Doha is the site of the U.S. Central Command in the war with Iraq.

The nonprofit Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, founded in 1995 by a decree of the Emir of Qatar, is funding the project. It has also covered A&M's costs for the preliminary discussions, including three trips to the Middle East for university officials, said David Prior, A&M's interim executive vice president and provost. A 10-year agreement could be signed in June, Prior said.

The Qatar Foundation first approached A&M in 2001....

--Austin American-Statesman

Maybe Qatar, not Iraq, is destined to be the 51st state -- or maybe Texas will just annex it.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that Qatar is going to be the friend-turned-foe that we, sadly, "have" to invade ten or fifteen years from now. Recall this, from The New York Times last February, about Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda operative cited in Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N.:

Mr. Powell withheld some critical details today, like the discovery by the intelligence agencies that a member of the royal family in Qatar, an important ally providing air bases and a command headquarters for the American military, operated a safe house for Mr. Zarqawi when he transited the country going in and out of Afghanistan.

The Qatari royal family member was Abdul Karim al-Thani, the coalition official said. The official added that Mr. al-Thani provided Qatari passports and more than $1 million in a special bank account to finance the network....

Private support from prominent Qataris to Al Qaeda is a sensitive issue that is said to infuriate George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. After the Sept. 11 attacks, another senior Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who may have been the principal planner of the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was said by Saudi intelligence officials to have spent two weeks in late 2001 hiding in Qatar, with the help of prominent patrons, after he escaped from Kuwait.

But with Qatar providing the United States military with its most significant air operations center for action against Iraq, the Pentagon has cautioned against a strong diplomatic response from Washington, American and coalition officials say.

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