How Qatar Bought the DC Foreign Policy Establishment

The oil-rich country has shaped U.S. foreign policy for years.

Written by Anthony Constantini

Background: In 2017, Qatar was in trouble. The emirate’s overt support for terrorist groups, including Hamas, frustrated its Middle Eastern neighbors enough that they fully blockaded it with demands to stop financing terror. Compounding Qatar’s problem was then-President Donald Trump’s support of the blockade, who critiqued the country for backing terror.

The solution: Qatari officials did what many in Washington do when their interests are threatened: they turned to lobbying. In a few years, they got what they wanted.

By 2022, in an effort to improve its image, Qatari officials had spent over $70 million lobbying American officials, more than most Arab countries. Here’s what they got for their money over that five-year period:

  • A House bill cut off U.S. funding to entities designated as sponsors of terrorism. After intense lobbying of Foreign Affairs Committee staff, Qatar was removed from the bill.

  • In 2018, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged Saudi Arabia to normalize relations right after Qatar agreed to invest large sums into his state. That same year, Qatar heavily lobbied the Trump administration, targeting senior advisors to former Vice President Mike Pence. Shortly after their efforts, Trump praised Qatar for their supposed resolve to combat terrorist financing.

Mission accomplished: In 2021, the Trump administration brokered a deal between Qatar and the blockading states, which re-established relations and resolved Qatar’s crisis.

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