Qatar and its influence peddlers are hitting the beat, trying to bend the ears of influential Americans with lots of cash and silly nonsense…
Why Should We Care About Qatar’s Influence?
For a half-century, Qatar has been a tiny, desert oasis for the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the world’s most virulent Islamists. In the 1960s, Gamel Abdel Nasser once again banned and cracked-down on the Brotherhood in Egypt, forcing thousands of the group’s agitators, clerics and community organizers to retreat elsewhere into the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
Since then, the Arabian Gulf emirate of Qatar has been the Brotherhood’s most hospitable base of operations. In time, Brotherhood Islamism would soon emerge as Qatar’s de-facto state ideology, as the ruling al-Thani family welcomed the Islamists with lavish funding, the highest state honors, and the establishment of new Islamist institutions that would indoctrinate thousands.
Qatar has also been exceptionally successful at buying and obtaining influence to advance its interests in Washington. The extent of its influence and information operations is one of the least-covered and least-scrutinized stories of the last few years but, thankfully, that’s changing. Because of its promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood and its alliance with Iran, more and more American are coming to understand that Qatar is a malign force—not just in the Middle East but in this country, as well.
Buying Lobbyists & Influencers
Once the diplomatic war with Saudi Arabia intensified in 2017, Qatar recognized the need for more air cover in Washington—especially on the subject of its funding of Islamists and terrorism. This culminated in a successful influence operation carried out with Qatari money by American lobbyists and agents, specifically groups like Stonington Strategies, run by Joey Allaham and the former deputy chief of staff for Senator Ted Cruz, Nick Muzin. They received around $7 million in Qatari money, according to an expose in Tablet. Not only is that a big paycheck for a lobbyist, but it allows such a lobbyist to spread a lot of dollars around.
Of course, $7 million is just a small part of the money Qatar admits to spending on lobbying annually. Most of that goes to buy the usual PR firms and advertising campaigns, media operators, and former congressmen, generals and ex-staffers who’re paid largely to open key office doors to influential people inside the Beltway. It’s this last group that’s most interesting and, in the case of Stonington Strategies, deeply cynical.
Without question, the Qataris hired Muzin and Allaham only because they were well connected to the American Jewish pro-Israel community, as well as to President Trump’s inner circle. They used that money to wine and dine Israel supporters, absurdly trying to convince them that Qatar—the patron of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the ally of Iran and Turkey—is friendly towards Israel.
Muzin and Allaham targeted some very influential leaders in the Jewish and non-Jewish conservative community, which is horrifying if you care about the pro-Israel cause. Thankfully, it didn’t really work, at least not as well as the Qataris had hoped; however much you spend, and regardless of how many palms you grease, you’ll have a hard time convincing most people that their enemy is really their ally.
Of course, nobody likes to be in the position to defend Qatar’s record on terrorism, even for satchels of cash. The Qataris or their lobbyists, very smartly, realized that their money was best spent getting high profile American influencers to attack their main enemy, Saudi Arabia. We still see the residue of some this spent money in the most hostile, unhinged attacks on Riyadh coming from unlikely places in the commentariat, from pundits both on the left and the right.
Influencers—paid or otherwise—work best when there’s a conveyor belt of product for them to comment on, usually a stream of news articles. And one of the biggest stories of the past year was the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Not only did it receive an incredible amount of coverage, but it was used very deliberately as a spark that would ignite policy debates that would advance Qatar’s regional agenda. Even now, Khashoggi’s murder is waved, like a bloody shirt, to justify downgrading the US-Saudi alliance at a key moment of fragile peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Qatar’s Hacking and Cyber-Espionage Campaigns
Much has been written here about Jamal Khashoggi and his usefulness as an instrument of information campaigns benefiting both Qatar and its Islamist ally, Turkey. But it’s far from the only time Qatar has waged a nasty campaign in the United States against its enemies.
Cyber-espionage is the hacking or theft of a target’s electronic communications, and we have grown accustomed to thinking about it in the world of spy-craft. Things like stealing a country’s proprietary secrets, manipulating or sabotaging products or weapons systems. With most people conducting business online or over text or email, however, targeted cyber-espionage campaigns can do tremendous damage to citizens or countries.
Read it all HERE.