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Al Jazeera Should Be Shut Down In the US for Engaging in Espionage

Al Jazeera is not an independent medium, but rather a mouthpiece for Qatar’s political agenda.  Qatar has used Al Jazeera as a tool of foreign policy to spy on US citizens and promote policies inimical to US national security interests. Qatar and Al Jazeera should be investigated for these abusive processes; if confirmed, Al Jazeera should be shut down in the United States as an adversarial tool.

Early June 2018  marked the one-year anniversary of the imposition of the blockade by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain (also known as the Anti-Terrorism Quartet, or the ATQ) against Qatar, in response to its perceived growing closeness to Iran and support for Islamist and terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its proxies.  Qatar responded by launching a charm offensive aimed at the Trump administration; it utilized the help of lobby and law firms to portray herself as an underdog and to vilify its regional rivals.  One tool of persuasion that Qatar used to pursue its foreign policy goals in the US, as well as elsewhere, was its allegedly independent news organization Al Jazeera, which despite the closure of its English language affiliate AJ+, continues to provide its programming to US viewers through satellites. Funded by the Qatar government, Al Jazeera acts as a lobbying branch for Doha, rather than an independent TV channel.

It promotes the government’s agenda, utilizes grossly partisan platforms with a distortive effect on the quality of its messaging, and openly embraces Muslim Brotherhood ideologues such as Youssef Al-Qaradawi. Al Jazeera’s messaging is consistently contrary to US interests. It is virulently anti-Semitic, anti-American, and persistently spreads conspiracy theories, in conjunction with other Middle Eastern outlets, against US allies, including Israel and the ATQ. Al Jazeera’s messaging is not content neutral; it consists of advocacy aimed at persuading the American public and officials to adopt policy positions contrary to US interests.

In that it is no different from Russia’s RT or China’s Xinhua News. Like these propaganda outlets for their respective autocratic regimes, the Department of Justice should at a minimum force Al Jazeera to register under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act), and stringently monitor its activities. Indeed, the most recent NDAA provides for an investigation that could lead to such a designation. So far, however, no action has been taken to elucidate the extent of Qatar’s involvement in espionage against US citizens, which prompted this move. Qatar then directed Al Jazeera to use the documentary resulting from the espionage operation as a tool of information warfare to blackmail and pressure prospective Jewish agents of influence, and to undermine anti-BDS and pro-Israel efforts in the US and Israel, a political action move that has little to do with the legitimate role of the press. Furthermore, given the limitations of enforcement under FARA, Al Jazeera should be shut down in the United States. It is an agent of influence pursuing goals adversarial to the national security interests of the United States, and has no business operating here. Qatar’s meddling and weaponization of its media should likewise be investigated, and possibly sanctioned.

FARA: The Elements

Foreign Agents Registration Act is a disclosure statute that requires persons (including organizations) acting as agents for foreign principals in a political or semi-political capacity to make periodic disclosures of their relationship with the foreign principals, as well as funding, activities, and receipts. Contrary to public perception, registration under FARA is not a punishment for working for another country, but rather, a national security provision which allows the Department of Justice to understand the sort of activities foreign governments engage in the United States. In theory, close monitoring of these public disclosures allows the United States government to assess the types and the extent of influence other governments have in the US, and whether or not they are inimical to the interests of the United States. Gathering and understanding such information would, in theory, allow the United States to take effective steps to counteract any adversarial interests, if they are perceived as sufficiently detrimental.

Until fairly recently, however, the enforcement of registration was infrequent. For that reason, many organizations and individuals which could be considered foreign government agents, have avoided scrutiny and failed to register under FARA. Their activities went largely unnoticed, and funding towards these lobbying and other influence efforts have not been accounted for. Registering under FARA may cause a level of inconvenience, the greatest of which, is the potential for scrutiny and a demand for additional information by the Attorney General.

However, these demands likewise have been infrequent, and are likely to occur in the event of what is perceived as insufficient or contradictory disclosure. There are few serious precedents of additional investigation of FARA registrants by the Attorney General. Keeping constant track of various lobbyists and other organizations is a hefty task; furthermore, unless the official reviewing the disclosures is familiar with common red flags, a FARA agent can easily get away with failing to report much of its activity without anyone ever being the wiser.

From its passage in 1938 until 1966, FARA was focused on propagandists; since then, however, the aim has been amended to focus on agents seeking economic or political advantage for their clients, potentially compromising the US government’s decision-making integrity. Most of the FARA-related enforcement mechanisms are now civil and administrative, rather than criminal. Since 1966 only four criminal action cases made it into litigation; none ended in trial.

The rest has been largely overlooked until the activities of Russia’s RT, perceived as meddling in US 2016 elections, and China’s Xinhua, brought about scrutiny from investigators and Congress. Indeed, in the context of the election interference probes, a number of individuals and organizations who have received payment from various countries for political services such as TV appearances and articles (Michael Flynn), political consulting (Paul Manafort), and directly lobbying came under scrutiny and were compelled to register retroactively. A bill was introduced to give the Department of Justice authority to investigate potential violators of FARA. The idea was that additional investigations and daylight could discourage or curb underhanded foreign political and economic influence, particularly in the instances where foreign press is weaponized to disrupt political processes and influence the public and lawmakers to foreign agendas hostile to US national security and other interests.

Despite the reawakening of interest in pursuing FARA, those affected by the recent investigations have largely been US citizens working as consultants on behalf of foreign governments; Al Jazeera, a media giant, with connections to many other media outlets, however, escaped attention until now. Its role in the Gulf Crisis is playing out in the United States. Also worth mentioning are its multiple other activities, which are unquestionably political, unquestionably reflective of a foreign government’s agenda and funded by a foreign government, and, because they are hostile to US interests, should not be ignored.

Al Jazeera is a State-Owned, Funded, and Run Political Operation

The word “Al Jazeera”, or “peninsula”, in Arabic, references Qatar, which is indeed a peninsula.

Contrary to the claims of the Qatari government, as well as the Middle Eastern street, Al Jazeera was never a truly independent media conglomerate.

It has distinguished itself by running a diversity of voices, including even some Israelis, at a time when most other Arab state channels limited themselves to the “party line” of the government. It also had the distinction of criticizing other countries’ governments (but never its own), thus giving voice to the concerns of the citizens of those countries, exhausted by lies, conspiracy theories, and censorship exercised by their own press.

However, this method was a strategy for the Qatar government to promote its state policy in an underhanded, effective way.

Al Jazeera started as a small operation, funded by Qatar’s former leader, Sheikh Hamed bin Khalifa Al Thani, who decided to fill in the vacuum left by a failed joint venture between the BBC and the Saudi government in 1995, with a new company mirroring CNN.  He gave a $150 million loan to a small Middle Eastern satellite network and hired most of BBC’s former journalists to run the new medium. The government of Qatar has bankrolled Al Jazeera ever since, which is described in detail in Al Jazeera’s financial filings in the UK. It shows that the entire share capital of the company is owned by the Emir of Qatar, who is the head of state.

More evidence that the media is state-run is the fact that the country’s opposition gets no voice. Qatar is a tiny country of approximately 300,000 people, but with the highest per capita income in the world thanks to its rich gas reserves. However, even the members of the Emir’s family reportedly have been placed under arrest for criticizing government policy or siding with the Saudi-led blockade in response to the Emir’s policies.

The government has acted in a manner consistent with having control over Al Jazeera. State Department cables released by Wikileaks recorded a number of US officials claiming that “Al Jazeera Arabic News Channel will continue to be an instrument of Qatari influence, and continue to be an expression, however uncoordinated, of the nation’s foreign policy”.  In 2009, sources from the US Embassy in Qatar sent out the cable stating: “Despite [The Government of Qatar’s] protestations to the contrary, Al Jazeera remains one of Qatar’s most valuable and diplomatic tools”. The Embassy further noted that the government controlled the Channel, funded it, and hired and fired the management.

The US embassy also noted the overall lack of media freedom inside the country.  Indeed, the Qatar government appeared to champion media freedom everywhere else, particularly in states adversarial to its interests, while suppressing dissent at home. The US government was far from the only source underscoring the extent of the Qatar government’s control over Al Jazeera. As’ad AbuKhalil, the author of the Angry Arab News Service, a widely read blog about media coverage of the Arab world, wrote: They have lost their credibility in the Arab world, by either covering developments one-sided — or completely ignoring them. They became a typical regime station. Their political agenda is not even masked.”

The former Wall Street Journal publisher  L. Gordon Crovitz, responding to Al Gore’s sale of the liberal cable channel Current TV to Al Jazeera, said: “More due diligence might have included a review of the close journalistic coverage over the years of Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English broadcasts, which discloses the unsurprising fact that the network reflects the interests of the government that runs it—making it akin to Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today and Beijing’s Xinhua. The emir of Qatar, Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani, appointed his cousin as chairman of Al Jazeera. The emir was last in the news for donating $400 million to Hamas, a terrorist organization.” In fact, it appears, over time Qatar, consolidated more control over Al Jazeera. Its coverage has also become less-even handed over the years, with the Economist alleging that Al Jazeera is the “satellite arm” and the “soft power” of Qatar.

A former Al Jazeera journalist imprisoned in Egypt, Mohamed Fahmy,  likewise adds that the Al Jazeera is far from an independent medium, writes Eli Lake: ” “Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera. In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt’s military dictatorship. Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy. ‘The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence,’ he told me in an interview Thursday. ‘There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists.’

Qatar Uses Al Jazeera as a Tool of Foreign Policy

More than just another illiberal state-controlled network, Al Jazeera became a powerful instrument for promoting Qatar’s foreign policy agenda, whether by staying quiet or by providing critical coverage of Qatar’s counterparts and adversaries in the region and beyond. Foundation for  Defense of Democracies (FDD)’s Research Analyst, Romany Shaker notes: “In the United States, Al Jazeera is used by Qatar to advance the tiny Gulf country’s foreign policy objectives. Concerning the Middle East, the Qatari network gave favorable coverage to some groups designated as terrorists by the US, including the Islamist militant Hamas and Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusrah. The Doha-based channel also continued to support the Muslim Brotherhood group which is designated by some Arab states as a terrorist group. ”  Indeed, Al Jazeera’s recent change in leadership of its Arabic channel reflected the government’s role in using media as an instrument of its political agendas.

The former head has reportedly moved on to join another branch of the government in what amounted to a promotion; the former deputy director of Al Jazeera’s Egypt branch during the Morsi period, Ahmed Salem al-Yafei took the reigns.  His appointment was symbolic; while operating in Egypt, al-Yafei’s operation vocally supported the Morsi-led Muslim Brotherhood, reflecting Qatar’s position of backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the military takeover.  Indeed, the connection between Al Jazeera and the state was patently obvious in the media coverage at the time. ““The tensions between Egypt and Qatar began with the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Qatar had cultivated close ties with the Brotherhood. Qatar’s state-owned network Al Jazeera sharply criticized the takeover, and Qatar provided a refuge for Brotherhood leaders in exil.”,  wrote David Kirkpatrick in “Persian Gulf States Reverse Course,” The New York Times on 2/21/15.

View story at Medium.com

Al-Yafei’s appointment is not a coincidence but a signal of the policy position Qatar intends to carry out through its media. Indeed, in the months that followed,  Qatar hosted the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual pillar and Al Jazeera’s hate preacher Youssef Al-Qaradawi at an iftar dinner, where Qaradawi was seen socializing with the emir, sparking outrage. Al-Yafei took no steps to curb Qaradawi’s media presence; Al Jazeera in Arabic continues producing anti-Semitic coverageThis appointment is meant to send a message to Egypt, which has evicted heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, and put Morsi and other members of his administration on trial – and to the other members of the ATQ. 

Qatar, despite its rhetoric, remains firmly committed to giving cover to the Muslim Brotherhood, not because it needs the Ikweini financial assistance, but because the Emir supports the use of revolutionary rhetoric as a tool of information warfare against his enemies – including American Jews, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and despite the formal alliance with Washington, the United States. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Qatar’s prestige emanates largely from the Al Jazeera channel based in Doha. The state-owned station broadcasts the most comprehensive coverage in the region but also plays to populist anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. views, giving Qatar legitimacy among Arabs even as it hosts one of the largest U.S. bases in the region.”(Jeffrey Fleishman And Noha El-Hennawy, “Qatar’s Ambitions Spark Tensions Across Middle East,” Los Angeles Times, 4/21/09)) According to the House Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), ” “… Al Jazeera has given voice to clerics calling for suicide attacks against Americans and Israelis.” (U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Middle East And North Africa Subcommittee, “Assessing The U.S.-Qatar Relationship,” Hearing, 7/26/17)

Al Jazeera, in English and Arabic, reaches viewers in the United States through satellites, live streaming services, and various online platforms. Providing access to extremist preachers and terrorist supporters, Al Jazeera contributes to the spread of online radicalization under the guise of “free speech for all”. Nearly 7 million viewers visit AJ’s English-language website from the US alone, according to SimilarWeb’s assessment on 2/1/18.  In effect, Al Jazeera has a broad platform for lobbying the public and the US government by inundating them with anti-American ideological commentary, political demands, and threats. To wit, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s, Dr. Matthew Levitt, a specialist on Hizbullah, testified: ” “In recent years, Qatar has housed leaders from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban, and has also provided a platform for extremist leaders to spread their ideology through shows on Al-Jazeera. In 2014, then-Treasury Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen reported that Qatar has openly financed Hamas for many years, and continues to contribute to regional instability. Cohen also noted that Qatar has supported other extremist groups operating in Syria.” ( (Dr. Matthew Levitt, “Assessing The U.S.-Qatar Relationship,” Testimony, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee On The Middle East and North Africa, 7/26/17)

As David Kirkpatrick further notes, ” In 2011, Harith al-Dari, an Iraqi sheikh and tribal leader designated as a terrorist fund-raiser in 2008, appeared on Al Jazeera praying at the opening of a state-owned mosque in Doha just steps from the crown prince of Qatar. ‘Arab countries won’t let us in to discuss things with them and complain to them — except one or two,’ Sheikh Dari said in a television interview in January. He spoke on Al Jazeera from Qatar, which was evidently among the ‘one or two.’”.  In effect, a state-run media network that gives a free platform to violent extremists and US-designated terrorists, is acting as a political lobbyist, rather than a channel of information, education, or entertainment.  A common definition of lobbying is ” a form of advocacy with the intention of influencing decisions made by the government by individuals or more usually by lobby groups; it includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.” 

According to FDD’s Romany Shaker, ” Al Jazeera has recently re-aired a documentary titled “I knew Bin Laden”. It is more like a hagiography glorifying the Saudi-born son of a rich construction magnate. ” Qatar has used its media as a form of supplementary lobbying against its political rivals and inconvenient groups, while simultaneously hiring professional lobbyists and lawyers for a formal engagement with the US government (to the tune of at least $5 million). Working in tandem with the publicity campaign, particularly after the imposition of the blockade, Al Jazeera, and its counterparts such as the Middle East Monitor, criticized the ATQ, attacked Israel, and promoted Islamists, even as Qatar’s public PR campaign sought to portray it as a modern, moderate country.

Indeed, even the choice of language Al Jazeera uses in its coverage betrays a particular political agenda. The use of particular wording can influence the perception of the overall item, thus creating a particular impression with the target audience.  Indeed, information warfare as a lobbying tool has become Doha’s specialty, it seems, as it has learned a great deal from its regional allies – Iran and Turkey. “What about those allegations that Al Jazeera is biased in favour of radical Islamist groups? Watch the screens in its Doha lobby and you soon notice that its coverage is different from that which we’re used to here. Corpses, including those of young children, often appear to emotive, swirling orchestral accompaniments. The language sounds odd, too. On the Arabic language channel, suicide bombers are often referred to as shaheed, or martyrs. Critics point out that Al Jazeera uses the expression ‘the state organization’ to refer to Islamic State, as opposed to the pejorative ‘Daesh’.” – writes John Aldridge in  “Is This The End Of Al Jazeera?” for the  Evening Standard, on. 6/22/17.

More than merely sympathetic to terrorist organizations, Al Jazeera aligned with them on the ground, particularly in Afghanistan.  “On October 7, 2001, the network’s Kabul office received a videotaped message from Osama bin Laden, which it transmitted around the world. Hiding in caves, Osama could still speak to the world in a voice louder than ours because we allowed our story to be told by our enemies.”- Sen. Joe Biden, Congressional Record, 4/17/02, pp. S2825-2827. Providing a unique platform to Osama bin Laden is indeed a form of lobbying, for bin Laden made direct demands on and threats to the United States government, and used terror as a form of influence.  Indeed, Sarah Chayes, in “The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan after the Taliban”, documents her early encounters with Al Jazeera during her coverage of the efforts to eject Taliban from Afghanistan only months after 9/11.  Her account underscores Al Jazeera’s operational alignment with Taliban and Al Qaeda, that goes far beyond providing a platform for commentary on air. Indeed, Al Jazeera, rather than being an impartial provider of news, took an active part in anti-American information warfare by Saddam Hussein’s regime, broadcasting the inhumane treatment of American POWs held by the Iraqi military in violation of the Geneva Conventions. 

Then-Rep. Mike Pence testified to that effect on the floor of Congress: “Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to denounce the creation and the broadcast of the inhumane treatment of United States prisoners of war held by the Iraqi military, photographed by the Iraqi military in violation of the Geneva Convention and broadcast worldwide by the Qatar government-owned Al Jazeera network. For those who have been living somewhere other than in front of the television the last 48 hours, Mr. Speaker, we all were witness of Iraqi forces parading five captured American soldiers, including a woman, before television cameras this past weekend. The Iraqi television footage, which was replayed to the entire Arab world for half a day, to over a billion people by the Qatar-based and -operated Al Jazeera network, not only showed these American POWs under a state of great indignity and duress, but it also showed the bodies of at least four other soldiers, graphically and closely portrayed, two of whom appeared to have been shot in the head, raising suspicions that they had been executed after being captured.” (Rep. Mike Pence, Remarks On The Floor Of The U.S. House Of Representatives, 3/25/03, pp. H2301-H2302)

Al Jazeera has not responded to multiple written requests for comment to any of the allegations in the article. However, at a talk at the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon, the Director General of Al Jazeera, Dr. Mostefa Souag, stated that the Al Jazeera was a completely independent media and that forcing it to register under FARA would be an impediment to freedom of speech and an attack on free press in the United States. As a result of registration, Dr. Souag said, Al Jazeera would lose its press credentials and would no longer be able to send reporters to official events.  I asked a question about Al Jazeera’s official position on whether the American Jewish lobby controls US foreign/domestic policy, and why Al Jazeera made the documentary about Jewish organizations and leaked it to the press.

The question was rephrased by the moderator to ask for comments about the four-part documentary about these organizations. Dr. Souag responded by saying that the documentary has not yet aired because there were some issues and Al Jazeera was going over them very carefully, but that it would be aired in the future once those issues were resolved. He further added that there was one person who spoke to the Emir of Qatar about not airing documentary and took credit for it being aired; Dr. Souag emphasized that Al Jazeera is independent and that Qatar has no control over what it chooses to publish. He added that Arabs don’t like saying “no” directly, and that the Emir had told that person “We will look into this”, as a way of saying “I cannot do anything about it”.

However, knowing the level of financial control the Emir exercises over Al Jazeera, this charitable interpretation of the conversation is dubious. At best, the Emir chose to have a hands-off approach; however, he was still well aware of Al Jazeera’s initiative in spying on Jewish organizations without their knowledge and the intentions of that documentary. Al Jazeera openly admitted to have engaged in an espionage operation with a nod from the head of state. The fact that it later leaked portions of the documentary without the subjects’ consent is further incriminating.  The Emir of Qatar funds an outlet that engages in defamatory espionage operations, which result in smearing American Jews as controlling or aspiring to control US policy

Al Jazeera, thus, is more than a vehicle for resolving petty squabbles with other Gulf States, or scoring points for political Islam. It seeks to affect foreign policy and to impact US decisionmaking by becoming a newsmaker, not just a news breaker. The media conglomerate has also become a vehicle for promoting the political agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran, thus defying the view promulgated by Qatar that Doha’s alliance with Tehran is merely that of short-term political necessity brought about by the blockade. In reality, the alliance goes back many years, as showcased by Al Jazeera’s unsympathetic coverage of the Green Movement in Iran in 2009, many years before the ATQ’s imposition of the blockade.  ” Al Jazeera has been serving as a medium of Iranian influence instead of countering it. One of the main illustrations of this trend is Al Jazeera’s coverage of the widespread protests that took place in Iran in December and January.

Al Jazeera referred to the Green Movement as an “unfinished popular revolution” — praise it deliberately withheld from the 2017 protest waves. When protests erupted rapidly across Iran in December 2017, Al Jazeera had no interest in balanced coverage or in giving a voice to the oppressed, putting to rest its long-time slogans “the other opinion” and “a voice for the voiceless.” It is clear the Al Jazeera’s pro-Iran coverage mirrors a clear shift in Qatar’s policy after the beginning of Doha’s with Saudi Arabia and the Arab quartet.  – Shaker says. Indeed, over time Doha’s relationship with Tehran deepened, as Qatar sought to play an independent influential role in foreign affairs – in the region, and far beyond. The blockade merely provided Qatar with a convenient excuse to distance itself from its regional rivals and to embrace Tehran. ” In the months after the boycott, Qatar-Iran ties have deepened. The emirate’s pro-Iran stance has also changed Al Jazeera. Last July, executives from the network and Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency signed a cooperation agreement emphasizing “the need for using the media to create an atmosphere of peace, friendship, and convergence” – adds Shaker.

Qatar’s dispute with the ATQ centered around a number of demands made by its opponents, which included severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and shutting down Al Jazeera. Rather than offering a compromise solution that would preserve Doha’s independence, such as reforming the channel, cutting out incendiary voices, and giving Saudi, Egyptian, Emirati, and Bahraini officials more of an opportunity to defend their countries’ policies on air, Qatar rejected all demands. Indeed, after the imposition of the blockade, Al Jazeera’s focus shifted to include more negative coverage about the blockade in an effort to win the hearts and minds of Western influencers and politicians.  Playing an underdog against superior regional forces, however, was only one part of Qatar’s publicity campaign in the United States and Europe.  Qatar effectively weaponized Al Jazeera to recruit additional agents of influencers, in an effort to win the ear of the Trump administration.

Qatar Uses Al Jazeera to Engage in Espionage and Information Warfare Against US Citizens

After infiltrating American Jewish organizations in the United States with the help of a left-wing Jewish intern, and producing a documentary “exposing the Jewish Lobby”, Al Jazeera contacted a number of Jewish entities in February 2018, informing them that they would likely be featured in that documentary and requesting a response. This infiltration ran parallel to Qatar’s PR campaign to counter Saudi influence, which included an attempted and in some cases successful recruitment of Jewish influencers with connections to the Trump administration.

Doha first Nick Muzin, a Republican political operative, known to be strongly pro-Israel, as well as Joey Allaham, former owner of a New York high end kosher restaurant Reserve Cut, known for his connection in the Middle Eastern decisionmaking circles, who, for an appropriate fee, worked closely within their circles of largely right-wing, Orthodox Jewish contacts to recruit community leaders and vocal defenders of Israel to visit Doha on free trips, which included meetings with the Emir and other high level officials. These influencers included such iconic figures as Alan Dershowitz, who became an adviser to the Trump administration and was at the White House when Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met with President Trump, and Mort Klein, who runs the Zionist Organization of America. Dershowitz later lectured at the Northwestern University at Doha (without disclosing the source of funding for that event), and Klein accepted (and later claimed to have returned) $100, 000 for ZOA courtesy of Joey Allaham.

Dershowitz, following his trip to Doha, wrote an op-ed in which he dubbed Qatar “Israel of the Gulf” and attacked Saudi Arabia. At about the same time, Qatar and the United States conducted talks, which DC and Doha agreed to host every year. Following those talks, the Emir, despite claiming not to be dealing directly with Hamas, called Hamas leadership and pledged $9 million for Gaza.

Mort Klein, for his part, upon visiting Doha, claimed victory in keeping the Al Jazeera documentary from being aired – and thus, inadvertently, supporting the premise that Al Jazeera is the Emir’s mouthpiece, and that the infiltration operation was approved, if not masterminded, by the Qatari government.

In March 2018, another Republican operative, Elliott Broidy, sued the government of Qatar, naming Nick Muzin and Joey Allaham parties to the lawsuit, for the alleged hack of his email, which took place in 2017. Muzin and Allaham consequently ended their official representation of Qatar. Allaham retroactively registered under FARA when discovery demands were made upon him.

Shortly, after that, it became clear that if the hack was carried out by in connection to Broidy’s alliance with the Emirati operative George Nasser to counter Qatar through political measures in the United States, the goal was to intimidate critics and operatives by engaging in information warfare. Indeed, there emerged claims that Qatar has a blacklist of vocal opponents who are in danger of being hacked, with their emails to be used against them as a point of embarrassment at some future date.

In April 2018, Emir Tamim visited the White House and was publicly embraced by President Trump. Signing a series of agreements, the administration praised Qatar for countering terrorism and soon thereafter engaged Doha in the attempt to resolve the Gaza crisis with Israel as a mediator. Despite protestations of Doha’s unwelcome meddling as late as February 2018, Israel agreed to this arrangement.

By June 2018, Qatar brazenly hosted Youssef Qaradawi at a state dinner. A number of Jewish influencers who helped pave the way for Qatar’s success with the administration through compelling visuals of visiting Doha and praising it via op-eds, criticized this move and took a lower profile on the issue. In early March, Senator Ted Cruz, and a number of members of Congress sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting the investigation of Al Jazeera for being an unregistered lobbyist under FARA in light of its espionage operation against the American Jewish organizations.  After the letter went unanswered, rumors swirled of a potential Congressional investigation of Al Jazeera’s activities or a potential second letter to the Justice Department.

Just then, however, the hackers released Broidy’s email detailing his close cooperation with his Emirati counterpart on countering Qatar, and the attention shifted away from Al Jazeera. Nearly simultaneously, Saudi Arabia was hit by a rumor mill based in the Iranian press involving a security incident, with various media claiming that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had been killed. Other rumors swirled around women’s rights activists who were briefly detained by the conservative elements inside the Kingdom’s religious police and released almost immediately. Gossip around these largely unsubstantiated press-generated conspiracy theories benefited Doha and fed into the ongoing Al Jazeera narrative. Once again, Al Jazeera’s own political moves were pushed into the background.

 In the Jewish circles, journalists began investigating the financial benefits of advocating for Qatar, as despite the defection of several particularly vocal activists, Qatar managed to retain representation by some of the top Jewish lobbyists, PR agents, and lawyersReconstructing the timeline of the Allaham donations to ZOA, for instance, Gregg Roman uncovered a concerted effort by Qatar to recruit high-level administrations officials who made appearances at various Jewish functions. These events, coincidentally attracted the attention of high-level Qatari government officials, who were courting the attention of Steven Bannon and Mike Pompeo.

By late July, President Trump was ready to sign the NDAA, which opened the door to the Justice Department’s investigation of Al Jazeera. The NDAA was enacted in early August; at the same time the Forward announced a series of articles investigating and exposing Jewish anti-BDS efforts. The articles appeared to be based on the unaired Al Jazeera documentary, which allegedly focused on the “Jewish Lobby”. Noah Pollak surmised as much in a deleted tweet, but the articles took the known allegations one step further, and rather than focusing on pro-Israel advocacy efforts, focused on groups like the Canary Missions which counter the BDS movement and other aggressive information warfare efforts by radical leftist and Islamist organizations.  At the time, it became obvious that Qatar likely double crossed Mort Klein, when promising not to air the documentary, and went around the promise by making revelations to journalists, who ran with it.  By the end of the month, the Wall Street Journal uncovered a targeted operation, with a list of 250 Jewish influencers Qatar sought to win over for the sake of reaching the administration.

Alan Dershowitz, Mort Klein, and others were on the list. They denied having advance notice of the operation,  but such proclamations by experienced lawyers and heads of non-profits were dubious, particularly since the administration has had long-standing ties to Qatar.  Despite these revelations, the attacks have not ceased. Recently, the Forward and Pro Publica admitted to having viewed the Al Jazeera documentary, and further, to using methods of information warfare developed by the US military to counter violent jihadists against Israeli and American Jewish anti-BDS activists.  In retrospect, it becomes obvious that Qatar, through Al Jazeera, ran a sophisticated information warfare campaign which used the infiltration and the documentary as blackmail/bait to recruit and lure reluctant pro-Israel Jewish community leaders as agents of influence to further Doha’s political agenda in the United States.

Later, Qatar continued its deceptive campaign, using its publicity to promote itself as a fair broker in the Middle East, gaining influence as a negotiator with a role to play in President Trump’s vision of peace in the Middle East (previously, the strategy relied almost entirely on the trifecta of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE). Qatar then used the very same tool to divide the anti-Islamist right-wing Jewish community, while undermining the credibility of Jewish activists and breaking apart the Jewish and Israeli efforts to counter the BDS and other movements hostile to Israel and funded by Islamists.

Al Jazeera demonstrably engaged in an act of espionage against US citizens. A common definition of espionage is “The act of securing information of a military or political nature that a competing nation holds secret. It can involve the analysis of diplomatic reports, publications, statistics, and broadcasts, as well as spying, a clandestine activity carried out by an individual or individuals working under secret identity to gather classified information on behalf of another entity or nation”.

Al Jazeera’s espionage benefited, and continues to benefit, Qatar’s political agenda, much of it inimical to US foreign and domestic policy and national security interests, which include countering Islamists and supporters of extremist ideology, such as the Muslim  Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera abused its status as a credentialed media network to engage in political activities detrimental to the United States; Qatar abused its status as an ally to engage in espionage against Americans and to undermined US political processes through deception and unwarranted and unwelcome intervention.

Both Qatar’s role in undermining US political processes, and its use of Al Jazeera’s as an unregistered foreign lobbyist, which also spies on and attacks US citizens should be investigated by Congress and the Department of Justice.

In the event that these violations are found, Al Jazeera should be shut down in the United States, as a tool of adversarial intelligence (the precedent for that has been the expulsion of Cuba’s propaganda machine La Prensa Latina during the Cold War), and Qatar should be sanctioned for its abusive and belligerent activities.


Update 1: Since the article was written, the Wall Street Journal and other publications uncovered lists of influencers targeted for recruitment, as well as lists of hacking targets.

Update 2: Emir Tamim is set to visit the White House for the second time in the near future.

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How KSA's Vision 2030 Can Grow from Challenges - The Herald Report June 19, 2019 at 8:25 am

[…] that he works with an outlet that has an inherent bias against Saudi Arabia, since it is a state mouthpiece for […]

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