Texas A&M to close Qatar campus, citing regional instability

DUBAI — Texas A&M University is shutting down its branch in Qatar, citing “heightened regional instability” in a statement from the university board. Qatar quickly issued a reply, calling the move “misguided” and “influenced by a disinformation campaign.”

The university’s decision comes as the war in Gaza has escalated tensions across the Middle East, but it also follows increased criticism of Qatar specifically for the country’s ties to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that Israel is at war with.

Qatari leadership says the United States supports its decision to host the Hamas political office in Doha and the Biden administration has praised its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, facilitating negotiations over the release of hostages. During a pause in fighting partially brokered by Qatar, Hamas released some 100 hostages.

In Gaza war, Qatar revisits role as regional mediator

Qatar has strong educational ties with a number of universities in the United States, including Georgetown and Northwestern, which both have Qatar campuses.

And the country also hosts the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, Al Udeid Air Base, which can house more than 10,000 U.S. military personnel.

Nonetheless, Qatar has received a steady stream of criticism for its links to Hamas in recent months from critics of the Biden administration in the United States and from Israeli leadership. Most recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the country “problematic” in a leaked audio recording.

Texas A&M University was attacked for its ties to Qatar in a January letter from an antisemitism watchdog group. The letter accused the university of involvement in a covert deal that gave Qatar control of nuclear weapons technology and described Qatar as a country that supports Hamas and other armed groups.

University President Mark Welsh, who is a retired Air Force general, issued a rebuttal at the time calling the report “simply wrong.”

“The insinuation that we are somehow leaking or compromising national security research data to anyone is both false and irresponsible,” he said in a statement.

Texas A&M University has had a branch in Qatar for over two decades, during which time it has graduated over 1,500 engineering students.

This week’s statement from the university board said the institution began reviewing its decision to have a “physical presence in Qatar” in fall 2023 “due to the heightened instability in the Middle East.”

The university branch will be shuttered by 2028, the statement said, but a team will be assembled to ensure students can complete their studies.

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