Qatar has hired the law firm of a former attorney general under US president George W Bush to potentially lobby American government officials on its behalf over its links to militants.
Doha has paid John Ashcroft’s firm US$2.5 million (Dh9.2m) to also audit its efforts at stopping terrorism funding.
Reports filed to the US justice department by Mr Ashcroft’s firm show it “may engage in outreach efforts to US government officials and/or communicate with the media” regarding its findings following the audit.
“The firm understands the urgency of this matter and the need to communicate accurate information to both a broad constituency and certain domestic agencies and leaders,” a contract between Qatar and Mr Ashcroft’s firm reads.
Mr Ashcroft personally will lead his Washington-based firm’s efforts.
Qatar’s move in hiring Mr Ashcroft, who was attorney general during the September 11 attacks and then helped push through the Patriot Act, appeared aimed at appeasing Washington as several Gulf nations try to isolate it.
Officials in Qatar and Mr Ashcroft’s firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the heart of the dispute between Qatar and Gulf states are the long-standing allegations linking Doha to regional Islamist and militant groups. Doha denies supporting terrorist organisations, but western officials have regularly accused the Qatari government of allowing or even encouraging the funding of some Sunni extremists. Qatar has also hosted a leader of Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, as well as members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Ashcroft Law Firm filed the paperwork with the US justice department’s national security division on Friday. Such reports are required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, first put in place over concerns about Nazi propagandists operating in the United States ahead of the Second World War.
The contract filed by Mr Ashcroft’s firm was signed by Ahmad Al Hammadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s foreign ministry.
The lump sum up front of $2.5 million is also rare for such lobbying efforts, likely signalling the urgency Qatar felt in getting its message heard in Washington. While US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has urged Gulf nations not to escalate the crisis, president Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised Qatar over its alleged support of militants.
* Associated Press