Just days after a controversy involving one of Washington’s most respected think-tanks, the Gulf state of Qatar has contracted a white collar, London based public relations firm “for a communications/political push targeted at Congress and federal agencies to improve ties with the US,” industry publication O’Dwyer’s reported on Thursday.
The $150,000 agreement with Portland Communications “also includes media outreach, event management, research, policymaker/influencer meetings and event management. It began Sept. 15 and runs through year end,” according to the report.
Qatar has been strongly criticized by Israel for its funding of widely designated terror group Hamas and has also been called out by others for its support of Islamist terror groups.
“Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar to protest its support of terror organizations,” O’Dwyer’s said.
In July, then Israeli President Shimon Peres told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting the region, that Israel would not stand by while Qatar continued to finance Hamas militants.
In his last full day in office, Peres, a historically dovish leader, struck a defiant tone in a statement delivered to the media after meeting Ban at the President’s Residence, in Jerusalem.
“Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians,” Peres said. “Their funding of terror must stop.”
A scandal erupted last week when it was revealed by The New York Times that Qatar had pledged $14.8 million to the well-regarded Brookings Institution in Washington DC, which includes former US Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk among its leaders.
On Wednesday, Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith described the news as “so startling, and frankly so grotesque.”
“Yes, you heard that right,” Smith wrote, “In his capacity as vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the prestigious Brookings Institution, Martin Indyk took an enormous sum of money from a foreign government that, in addition to its well-documented role as a funder of Sunni terror outfits throughout the Middle East, is the main patron of Hamas-which happens to be the mortal enemy of both the State of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.”
On Thursday, Zionist Organization of America Chief, Morton Klein, called for Brookings to return the money.
“Brookings, of course, is denying that the work of their scholars is affected by Qatari funding, but who would believe that?” Klein questioned. “As the saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and it is likely that the selection and retention of scholars is based on what is sought by, and acceptable to, munificent funders like Qatar. The fact that not all Brookings scholars hew to precisely similar views on all subjects does not negate this point.”
Portland is headed by Tim Allan, a former adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Director of Communications at BSkyB. Its other clients include Hyatt, McDonalds, Heathrow Airport and Barclays.
The firm’s Toby Orr will serve as Portland’s project lead on the business, and will report to Saif Ahmed Althani, Qatar’s head of communications in its government communications department, according to the report.