PanaTimes

Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Qatar influence campaigns need much greater scrutiny

Qatar influence campaigns need much greater scrutiny

Belgian prosecutors aren’t the only ones investigating whether the Qataris covertly sway policy with gifts and money.
For a small Gulf emirate located on a spit of desert jutting into the Persian Gulf, Qatar has long punched way above its weight in the corridors of Western power.

Natural gas and oil explain its wealth — Qatar has the third-largest proven natural gas reserve — but that only tells half the story of how the world’s richest little emirate, and current World Cup host, has managed over the past decade or so to exert widespread influence and sought to shape policymaking from Washington to Brussels, London to Berlin, using donations to academia and think tanks, investments in media brands and top corporations, and invitations to leading politicians to attend high profile summits on education and climate action.

The graft scandal unfolding now in Brussels, with the arrests of four people including Greek MEP and European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili, will likely draw much more scrutiny to Qatar’s highly sophisticated and sustained foreign lobbying and interlocking influence campaigns, which are cited by analysts as textbook examples of how to parlay cash into soft power.

Belgian prosecutors aren’t the only ones investigating whether the Qataris buy influence and seek covertly to sway policy with gifts and money.

U.S. federal prosecutors have launched multiple Qatar-linked probes in recent years trying to establish whether pay-to-play lobbyists and former American officials broke lobbying laws and failed to register as “agents of a foreign principal.” Among the influence campaigns investigated was a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort in 2018 involving Qatari officials inviting 250 friends and associates of then-President Donald Trump on all-expenses-paid trips to Doha.

In June, retired General John Allen, a former commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, resigned as president of the Brookings Institution after news broke that he was under investigation by the FBI for lobbying secretly on behalf of Qatar.

The emirate’s ruling al-Thani family has leveraged fabulous natural gas-based wealth into regional and international influence, said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.

“Qatar has wielded its immense wealth in ways that violate norms, if not laws, all around the world; there’s virtually no Western capital, let alone South American or Asian ones, that has not been impacted in some way,” he said.

Schanzer acknowledges much of what the Qataris do to try to influence Western policy and public opinion is legal, but the scale and extent raises questions, he said.

“They retain many of the white shoe law practices and lobby firms here in Washington. I have always found it remarkable how they sponsor the American Congressional baseball game every year. They have paid to keep the Washington DC Metro open when hockey games run late in Washington and there’s just a huge number of ways they purchase influence legally. The problem I think becomes this: how much is too much? You know, for a country comprising 300,000 native-born citizens it just simply does not seem normal to wield the amount of influence they do globally,” Schanzer added.

It was Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former emir who governed from 1995-2013, who started the process of using Qatar’s vast energy resources and wealth to transform the emirate into a global player when it comes to soft power. He spent more than $1 billion to build Al Udeid Air Base southwest of Doha, now the home of the biggest American military installation in the Gulf.

And during his watch, Qatar made massive investments in Western marque companies and has significant stakes in major British, French and German corporations and financial institutions, including Porsche, France Telecom, Credit Suisse and Royal Dutch Shell. He also started making huge donations to Western schools, universities, think tanks and museums.

Qatar now hosts eight satellite campuses of prestigious Western universities — American, British and French — on a sprawling 12-square kilometer site known as Education City on the outskirts of the Qatari capital.

Doha’s global engagement through education, culture and art — all useful in securing political influence — has been overseen by Mozah bint Nasser, the glamorous second wife of the former emir and mother of the current ruler, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Famous for glitzy globetrotting philanthropy which has her rubbing shoulders with Western royals and Hollywood superstars, she heads the Qatar Foundation, which is seen in the emirate as a state-within-the-state — its budget is considerable although opaque and is unpublished. One of the most ambitious of the World Cup stadiums is in QF’s Education City.

Qatar donated $1 billion to U.S. universities between 2011 to 2017, making it “the largest foreign funder by far” of American higher education, according to U.S. watchdog group Project on Government Oversight.

But the Qatar Foundation — as well as the emir — have also been caught up in the deep contradictions of the emirate. Conservative-minded Qatar is an adherent of Wahhabism, the strict Muslim school of thought associated mainly with Saudi Arabia but also the emirate’s official faith. That ends up with the emir trying to pull off an increasingly precarious balancing act between appearing one moment Western-oriented while at the same time avoiding offending the more hidebound members of the 2,000-strong Qatari royal family or risking becoming a target of jihadists.

The Qatar Foundation has been criticized for hosting “hate preachers” in mosques it controls in the emirate like Omar Abdelkafi, Aidh al-Qarni and Saudi cleric Saleh al-Moghamsy, who has argued al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden died with honor in the eyes of Allah.
Newsletter

Related Articles

PanaTimes
Close
0:00
0:00
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
Swedish Embassy in Baghdad Engulfed in Flames Amidst a Firestorm of Protests
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
An Ominous Shift in Warfare: Western Powers Risk War Crimes and Violate International Norms with Cluster Bomb Supply to Ukraine
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner
×