Qatar’s influence campaigns in Washington ring alarm bells

From all indications, Doha continues to believe that with good PR and the right budget it can get away with supporting extremists.
Wednesday 10/06/2020
The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani speaks during a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (not pictured) in Tehran, last January. (Reuters)
The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani speaks during a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (not pictured) in Tehran, last January. (Reuters)

LONDON –Qatar’s ongoing support for radical groups classified as terrorist organisations in numerous parts of the world is a source of growing concern for the international community, especially the United States.

David Reaboi, a US veteran national security and political communications consultant, recently accused Qatar of providing safe haven to al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, and sponsoring the ideology propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Reaboi’s accusations come as security experts and advisers voice concerns about Qatari lobbying campaigns to pressure the US administration into overlooking Doha’s alleged misconduct, including its suspected ties with extremist groups that pose a threat to US security.

In an article in Newsweek magazine, Reaboi warned against Qatar-funded lobbyists, media outlets and think tanks based in the US and questioned how US influencers could accept money from a country that provides safe haven to terrorist groups.

Reaboi explained that Doha had waged an extensive PR campaign on prominent allies of US President Donald Trump, providing them with hefty donations and gifts in an effort to steer the White House’s policy. He specifically referred to Qatar’s diplomatic crisis with its Arab neighbours, noting that the dispute was triggered by Doha’s alleged support for terrorist and extremist organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its policy of incitement against other Arab governments in the region with the help of its mouthpiece Al Jazeera TV.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Doha on June 5, 2017, accusing Qatar of schemes to destabilise the region through its support for extremist organisations, financing of terrorist groups and coordination with arch-rival Iran.

The Arab quartet has also condemned Qatar for using Al Jazeera to foment unrest in the region— “something it had been doing with much success since the Arab spring in late 2010,” according to Reaboi.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the White House in Washington, April 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the White House in Washington, April 10, 2018. (REUTERS)

“For Qatar, the conflict with its neighbours would be won in Washington, chiefly through the use of an army of lobbyists, media outlets and think tanks.” Reaboi wrote.

He pointed out that lobbyists have been acting on a “promise of some kind of profit: money, fame, career advancement or even claimed virtuousness,” noting that “wealthy nations like Qatar have the ability to extend these kinds of benefits to a great many people—and they do.”

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Qatar had hired Nick Muzin, a former senior adviser to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and longtime New York restaurateur Joey Allaham to carry out its influence campaign on conservatives and Republicans within Trump’s orbit.

From all indications, Doha continues to believe that with good PR and the right budget it can get away with supporting extremists.