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Khashoggi Revelations Finally Expose Qatar Foundation International's Goals

Qatar Foundation International (QFI), the American affiliate of the nominally private Qatar Foundation (QF), claims to be independent of the Qatari regime and even from its own parent organization QF (which is a deeply important tool of Qatari statecraft). Its representatives and executives claim to be interested only in its public mission of supporting Arabic-language studies in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere.

Yet QFI and the Qatar Foundation have made strenuous efforts to block the kind of transparency people expect from civil-society organizations. In 2011, QFI terminated its nonprofit foundation and replaced it with a private “not-for-profit” LLC, presumably to avoid making IRS-required disclosures about its operations. What kinds of disclosures were so problematic? Perhaps that the board of directors included Qatari regime figures, such as Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani and Khalid Al-Kuwari.

Sometime before 2014, QFI sponsored the Arab American Association of New York, at a time when radical Islamist activist Linda Sarsour was its executive director, and -- among other things -- was covering up instances of sexual assault. One struggles to imagine how such sponsorship relates to QFI’s claimed mission of classroom education. Apparently, QFI and AAANY don’t care to explain; because today the AAANY’s sponsors are entirely missing from its webpage, as are the executive staff and the board of directors. To find the record of QFI’s sponsorship, you have to go to the Internet Archive.

More recently, the Qatar Foundation has been filing lawsuits to block Freedom of Information Act requests regarding over $1B that QF has been funneling into elite American universities such as Georgetown and Texas A&M.

Now, with the affair of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, we are finally getting a better picture of QFI’s true agenda.

More than a journalist, Khashoggi had deep ties to Saudi intelligence and the court faction of Prince Turki al-Faisal, a rival to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. “MBS”). Exiled by MBS’s faction for perceived disloyalty, Khashoggi was writing columns for the Washington Post and had begun setting up an advocacy group called “Democracy for the Arab World Now,” perceived to be a threat to the Saudi regime, when he was apparently killed.

We now find that QFI played a role in his activism. The Post reported on December 22 that Khashoggi worked closely with QFI executive director Maggie Salem, to the extent that Salem drafted many of his columns for the Post. Salem, when asked for comment, claimed that the assistance she gave him was only as a friend (they had met during her days as a State Department diplomat) and that she was only helping correct his poor English. Salem claimed that QFI did not try to influence him on behalf of Qatar.