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Qatar’s splurge of millions for support in Washington going in vain

Published: Updated:

There was much bonhomie as a few dozen people, including members of Congress and US administration officials, gathered last week for dinner in a posh Washington neighborhood in honor of Qatar’s foreign minister, according to a report by Reuters.

The scene was a continuation of the same situation more than year ago as Doha is still, in vain, spending colossal amount of money, and organizing events, in order to push the White House to press on the Middle East powers to revert their decision to cut ties with Qatar over its policies.

President Donald Trump followed the boycott with tweets suggesting Qatar funded terrorism. Reuters has quoted Joey Allaham, who used be paid from Qatar to advocate for it, as saying when the decision (cutting ties with Doha) was taken “they (Qatar) had no presence on the Hill.”

Reuters added that Allaham was paid $1.45 million, including costs, for his advocacy work. However, a year later, the boycott remains in force, and Qatar is still trying, without no results, to persuade certain lawmakers and American personalities to help in getting it out of the crisis.

In the Reuters report, several Qatari lobbyists said the strategy has cost Qatar tens of millions of dollars. The country has also hired some people seen as close to Trump, pledged billions of dollars in US investments or business and sponsored Doha visits, according to its advisers and public filings the report said.

Millions lavished

Qatar has lavished at least $24 million on lobbying in Washington I the last 18 months and has hired people close to Trump.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for example, said he worked for the Qataris on an investigation and visited Doha just weeks before becoming Trump’s personal lawyer in April.

Giuliani told Reuters that he has not spoken to Trump about his Qatar work. In contrast, Ed Royce, chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed plans for a bill naming Qatar a sponsor of terrorism. Royce introduced the bill.

Qatar “swarmed the Hill” to oppose the bill, including appealing to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, two lobbyists said. But debates about the bill are still ongoing.

“Understandably, the Qataris called in all their lobbyists and favors to try to derail the bill, though the final chapter on these issues has yet to be written,” said the Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who has sued Qatar for hacking his emails.

In addition, Qatar has also reached out to unlikely allies. In January, Qatar's lobbyists flew Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, first class on Qatar Airways and put him up at the five-star Sheraton Grand Doha Resort for meetings with the country's leaders, according to the report.

That included a two-hour, one-on-one palace meeting with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. However, Klein continues to be critical of Doha.

The report said that the United States, closely allied to countries on both sides, has found itself in the middle and tried unsuccessfully to mediate. Trump wants “the dispute eased and eventually resolved, as it only benefits Iran,” a US State Department spokeswoman said.

MORE: $90 million? The price Qatar would pay to get cosy with Trump-friendly media

Iran ties

Meanwhile, Qatar was the only GCC state that, since the beginning of the crisis, enhanced its ties with Iran. Reuters quoted an Iranian official, who previously served as ambassador to the UAE as saying that Qatar has the right to choose its allies. (MORE).

“Rather than hoping for Washington to enforce a solution to the crisis, Qatar should establish a dialogue directly with the UAE and its neighbors,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US has said.

The Hill also quoted Ali Shihabi, the executive director of the Arabia Foundation, as saying that much of the negotiations around Qatar policy will be happening outside these circles. He added: “This is something that’s happening in a high level. I don’t think that lobbying firms can have an impact on something like that.”

Who is Trump really siding with in Qatar’s crisis?