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Monday, September 08, 2014

It's come to this: Obama-Kerry 'peace talks' envoy paid by Qatar (and Norway)

The New York Times reported at length on Sunday on the financing of US think tanks by foreign governments (see also Memeorandum). Among the US think tanks who receive significant financing from foreign governments is the Brookings Institute.
The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.
Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.
Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments.
“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.”
The directors of the institutions claim that all that money doesn't blind them and doesn't make them execute the donors' wishes.
In interviews, top executives at the think tanks strongly defended the arrangements, saying the money never compromised the integrity of their organizations’ research. Where their scholars’ views overlapped with those of donors, they said, was coincidence.
Here's the reaction of one director whose name should be familiar to those who follow the goings on in Israel. 
“Our business is to influence policy with scholarly, independent research, based on objective criteria, and to be policy-relevant, we need to engage policy makers,” said Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings, one of the oldest and most prestigious think tanks in Washington.
Do any of you think Indyk is telling the truth? If yes, consider this:
In their contracts and internal documents, however, foreign governments are often explicit about what they expect from the research groups they finance.
“In Washington, it is difficult for a small country to gain access to powerful politicians, bureaucrats and experts,” states an internal report commissioned by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry assessing its grant making. “Funding powerful think tanks is one way to gain such access, and some think tanks in Washington are openly conveying that they can service only those foreign governments that provide funding.”
The Brookings Institution, which also accepted grants from Norway, has sought to help the country gain access to American officials, documents show. One Brookings senior fellow, Bruce Jones, offered in 2010 to reach out to State Department officials to help arrange a meeting with a senior Norway official, according to a government email. The Norway official wished to discuss his country’s role as a “middle power” and vital partner of the United States.
Brookings organized another event in April 2013, in which one of Norway’s top officials on Arctic issues was seated next to the State Department’s senior official on the topic and reiterated the country’s priorities for expanding oil exploration in the Arctic.
William J. Antholis, the managing director at Brookings, said that if his scholars help Norway pursue its foreign policy agenda in Washington, it is only because their rigorous, independent research led them to this position. “The scholars are their own agents,” he said. “They are not agents of these foreign governments.”
But three lawyers who specialize in the law governing Americans’ activities on behalf of foreign governments said that the Center for Global Development and Brookings, in particular, appeared to have taken actions that merited registration as foreign agents of Norway. The activities by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council, they added, at least raised questions.
“The Department of Justice needs to be looking at this,” said Joshua Rosenstein, a lawyer at Sandler Reiff.
Ona Dosunmu, Brookings’s general counsel, examining the same documents, said she remained convinced that was a misreading of the law.
Norway, at least, is grateful for the work Brookings has done. During a speech at Brookings in June, Norway’s foreign minister, Borge Brende, noted that his country’s relationship with the think tank “has been mutually beneficial for moving a lot of important topics.” Just before the speech, in fact, Norway signed an agreement to contribute an additional $4 million to the group.
Norway's ruling party is not exactly a friend of Israel either.... 

Read the whole thing.

Here in Israel, the government now believes it knows why the latest 'peace talks' were so biased against Israel. His name is Martin Indyk and he's the director of Brookings and, as noted above, on the payroll (indirectly) of Qatar and Norway (and other countries).
“Qatar has been a major bankroller for Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” one government official said. “The fact that the same Qatari government is also a major provider of funds for a respectable Washington think tank raises a whole series of questions about that think tank’s relationships and impartiality.”

Among the questions this has raised in Jerusalem is the degree to which the institute can impartially draw up papers relating to Qatar, such as its role in the Middle East and the financing of terror organizations.

Qatar is Hamas’s main financial backer.


Indyk, who took leave from Brookings to serve as the US special Middle East envoy during the nine months of unsuccessful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that ended in April, returned to the think tank after the negotiations failed and is currently its vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program.


In a recent interview with Foreign Policy magazine about the Gaza conflict, Indyk said US President Barack Obama became “enraged” with Israeli criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Indyk said Gaza has had a “very negative” impact on the US-Israel relationship.

“There’s a lot of strain in the relationship now. The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister has been fraught for some time and it’s become more complicated by recent events.”
The Qatar connection might also explain why US Secretary of State John FN Kerry was so anxious to do Qatar's (and Turkey's) bidding during Operation Protective Edge. 

Arutz Sheva adds:
Indyk, who served as US negotiator in the failed peace talks, has had his impartiality put into question before due to his position on the executive board of the radical-left New Israel Fund, which funds numerous anti-Israel NGOs. In May, Indyk was accused of engaging in a "nasty" anti-Israel tirade at a bar following an address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Qatar has not only funded Hamas, but according to reports pushed the group to reject a ceasefire in the recent Operation Protective Edge and return to its terror war on Israeli citizens, threatening to expel Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal if it didn't do so.
The position of Qatar led Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor in August to label the oil-state "a Club Med for terrorists," adding that the "hundreds of millions of dollars" Qatar gave Hamas meant "every one of Hamas's tunnels and rockets might as well have had a sign that said 'Made possible through a kind donation of the emir of Qatar.'"
A few more take-aways from this story:

1. Maybe you all now understand why Israel has tried to control or stop foreign government funding of NGO's.

2. The Obama administration touted itself as the 'most transparent administration evah.' Is this what they had in mind? 

3. With all the bellyaching by the likes of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer about a supposed 'Israel lobby,' Israel does not appear on the list of countries that have donated money to US think tanks. But nine Arab countries do appear on the list. I'm sure you're all shocked.

Kudos to the New York Times (for a change) for actually letting this story come out.

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