Thursday, May 2, 2013

Brookings Slammed for Qatar Connection

Here is what Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
Here is the genius of Qatar, the peanut-sized Persian Gulf state that provides material support to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly some of Syria’s jihadist rebel groups, in a single image: A two-cheeked kiss, in public, between Qatar’s second-most powerful man, the prime minister (and foreign minister), Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire who funds, among other things, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
The kiss took place at a Brookings dinner last week in Washington that was convened to pay homage to Al Thani for his support -- because, yes, in addition to pledging $400 million to Hamas, Qatar also supports Brookings, one of Washington’s premier research groups.
I went to the dinner that night embarrassed on behalf of Brookings, which, like many institutions in Washington, shouldn’t be taking money from despotic Middle Eastern regimes, yet does. And the warm-up acts were indeed cringe-worthy. I can’t write about what was said, because these introductory remarks were summarily declared off the record, but suffice to say that various government officials who should have known better ventilated on the subject of Qatar’s magnificence with more than the minimally required sycophancy.
The main event -- a conversation between HBJ, as Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani is known, and Martin Indyk, a vice president and director of foreign policy at Brookings -- was more enlightening. When his turn came, Indyk (who is a friend of mine) asked HBJ a series of direct and uncomfortable questions that prompted answers so incredible they had many of the people in the audience not on Qatar’s payroll rolling their eyes.

Here is how Politico's Dylan Byers reports Goldberg's comments about Brookings.  Mr. Byers says that Goldberg's piece "is almost sure to anger a few folks" at the Brookings Institution.  He also notes that in 2012 Qatar gave between $2,500,000 and $4,999,999 to Brookings, which also has a center in Doha called the Brookings Doha Center.  [Other US-based think tanks, such as RAND Corp.'s RAND-Qatar Policy Center, have a presence in Qatar.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post titled "Qatar Buying Influence at US Think Tanks?"]

In response to Mr. Byers' piece, Mr. Goldberg said this: "I would prefer that American think tanks I admire, including Brookings, not take money from authoritarian governments that are known to provide material support to groups designated by the US government as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).  It just smells bad."

The State Department keeps a list of FTOs which can be found here.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post which notes that the Atlantic Council has a variety of foreign government donors, including Qatar.

In 2012, Mr. Goldberg accused another think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP), of being anti-semetic.

The Brookings Institution was recently ranked as the best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  The Brookings Doha Center was recently ranked as the 8th best think tank in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by the same rankings.