How Qatar is molding Americans’ opinion in favor of extremism

Most of Qatar’s funds are channeled through the Qatar Foundation, criticized for its ties to extremist Islamic ideologies and activists, and for giving hate speech a platform in Doha’s Education City Mosque. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 July 2019

How Qatar is molding Americans’ opinion in favor of extremism

  • Universities, media outlets, activist groups and think tanks are key instruments of Qatar's insidious foreign influence
  • Investments in US elite institutions are helping Qatar deflect media attention away from its extremist agenda

CHICAGO: Qatar is investing billions of dollars in American universities, cash-hungry lobbyists in Washington, DC, journalists, mainstream activist groups and policy think tanks in an apparent drive to soften criticism of its activities that researchers focused on terrorism say fuels violent extremism.

The researchers argue that these concerns should have led the discussion that President Donald Trump held with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on July 9 at the White House. Though in the past Trump has criticized Qatar over its support for terrorism, this meeting focused only on economic issues.

Journalist and activist Mike Cernovich, who was involved in exposing the sexual harassment allegations that forced Congressman John Conyers to resign and opened the seat to Palestinian activist Rashida Tlaib in Michigan’s 13th District, released a documentary in March titled “Blood Money: How Qatar Bought off the D.C. Media Establishment” to argue the case for greater scrutiny of Qatar’s activities.

Cernovich has come under attack from liberal writers, including some secretly funded by Qatar’s foreign allies. But Cernovich’s documentary raises serious concerns about how Doha has spread its influence deep into critical US establishments to shape Americans' perception of Qatar, playing down its dubious associations and extremist agenda.

Most of Qatar’s funds are being channeled through Qatar Foundation, which has been criticized for its ties to extremist Islamic ideologies and activists, and for giving hate speech a platform in Doha’s Education City Mosque.

David Reaboi, a national-security consultant based in Washington, DC, has ridiculed Qatar’s attempts to claim a neutral stance when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood.

CAMPUS CONNECTION

  • Qatar Foundation International, NYC
  • Brookings Doha Center, Doha
  • Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Doha
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Doha
  • Northwestern University, Doha
  • Texas A&M University, Doha
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, Doha
  • Weill Cornell Medical College, Doha

“The Brotherhood has found a home in Qatar and, today, they are supporting (and also counting on the support of) every Islamist group and activist in the world.” Reaboi said.

“For them to distance themselves from the Brotherhood in public might be good public relations, but it’s like asking Egypt to distance itself from the pyramids in Giza.”

Among those demanding accountability and transparency in Qatar’s lobbying activities in America is the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a US think tank. Varsha Koduvayur, an FDD senior researcher, has called on Trump to act, arguing that Qatar’s emir must “come clean” about its funding of American universities.

“President Trump should tell the emir that America welcomes genuine investments in our education system, but not influence peddling. Trump should explicitly note to the emir that his administration will not tolerate Qatar Foundation’s bad-faith efforts to circumvent federal disclosure rules,” Koduvayur said.

According to Koduvayur, Qatar is not only “meddling” in major universities but also targeting teachers at elementary and high schools (K12), impacting young people and teenagers under the age of 18.

Reaboi, who is interviewed extensively in Cernovich’s “Blood Money,” argued that Qatar’s actions are “detrimental to America’s national interests.”

“When our friends in the Muslim world realized that they were seditious, and had the goal of overthrowing their governments as well, I think that a kind of breakthrough became possible,” Reaboi said.

“Western criticisms of the Brotherhood suddenly made a lot more sense to many Arab citizens, especially in places like Egypt, which had to claw itself out of a Brotherhood takeover. I think there's a broad coalition now of anti-Islamists across the globe, and it's confounding a lot of the pro-Islamist mainstream media and befuddling a lot of so-called Middle East experts.”




Qatar seeks to mold opinion via US universities. (Shutterstock)

Data shows that Qatar is using its funds to mold American public opinion through such universities as Georgetown, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Cornell, Michigan and Northwestern. Georgetown, VCU, Cornell and Texas A&M have even established branch campuses in Qatar. And Qatar is funding the Brookings Institution, Cernovich says.

These investments have helped Qatar deflect news media attention away from its extremist agenda plus its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and towards Saudi Arabia, which is leading the criticism of Qatar’s extremist ties.

Qatari investments mainly in real estate and investments in the US exceed $45 billion, according to a January 2019 report from Reuters news agency.

Reaboi said Qatar leads the world in pushing a political agenda through lobbying and media funding.

“Arguably, there’s no other country that’s even half as aggressive in the foreign-influence game as Qatar. Americans should be aware of its dangerous information and influence efforts,” he said.

What makes Qatar’s investments even more suspicious is that Qatar has turned to legal means to prevent state governments from forcing detailed disclosures of how their funds are being used.

Qatar Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Texas attorney general’s office to prevent the state from forcing Texas A&M University to disclose the details of its contract with Qatar.

Doha claimed that the terms of the contract are a “trade secret” and thus exposure could hurt Qatar Foundation’s interests. In the US, private institutions are not required to disclose their contract terms but Texas A&M is a public institution.

 

Watch the full documentary, Blood Money: How Qatar Bought off the D.C. Media Establishment, on Youtube.

 


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.