Some of Qatar’s most significant investments have been in establishing outposts of Western universities and think tanks. Among others, the country has partnered with the Brookings Institution, Georgetown University and the Royal United Services Institute to open programs specializing in science, journalism, education, agriculture and foreign policy.
“An important question is: Why are they doing it and what, if anything, does Qatar get out it?” said Hanna, the Century Foundation expert, who suggested that “vanity and a real search for prestige” might be part of the answer.
As academic institutions, Brookings and the other affiliated organizations retain their intellectual independence, but their positions often echo those of the Qatari government. Scholars at Brookings Doha Center, for example, have emerged as key backers of U.S. military support for the armed opposition in Syria and as influential voices explaining and defending the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, a chief beneficiary of Qatar’s largesse.
Salman Shaikh, the director of Brookings Doha Center and a former adviser to Qatar’s first lady, said that the center has no institutional positions and that its analysts and fellows have a “healthy variety of views” on the fate of the region, including critics of military intervention in Syria.
“Just because some of our views happen to coincide with Qatar’s approach or Qatari interest shouldn’t be taken to mean something it doesn’t,” he said.
“I’ve not had one conversation where the Qataris have tried to sway me in one particular direction over the last two years,” he said. “That’s not to say they always agree with me. They clearly don’t. But I think, credit to the Qataris that they seem to be sticking with this when others have become more nervous. I think they see this in the long run as a public good.”Here is commentary from The Peninsula titled "In Qatar, do think-tanks matter?"