Recent revelations of significant financial ties between the Brookings Institution and Qatar’s government are raising new questions about the policy positions of the influential Washington think tank—including one top scholar’s writings about an al Qaeda-linked group, known as Ahrar al-Sham, that is funded by a terrorist financier linked to the Qatari royal family.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Qatar has pledged a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, making it the “single biggest foreign donor” to the think tank. That money will help finance Brookings’ Doha Center in Qatar and its project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world.
The director of the project, William McCants, also served from 2009 to 2011 as a senior adviser to the State Department on countering violent extremism. In January of this year—a month after the State Department said it was open to meeting with the Islamic Front rebel alliance in Syria, which reportedly never took place—McCants co-authored a Foreign Affairs piece in which he argued that President Barack Obama might want to hold off on designating one of the Front’s most important militias, Ahrar al-Sham, as a terrorist group.
McCants admitted that a leading figure and co-founder of the group, Abu Khalid al-Suri, recently “published a statement praising bin Laden and al Qaeda’s current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri.” Suri proved that “as has long been rumored, al Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham are joined at the hip,” McCants wrote.