Al Jazeera said the Qatari foreign ministry and Doha’s embassy in Washington, DC have yet to comment on the matter.
New US federal court filings found alleged lobbying efforts by retired four-star General John R Allen to help Qatar influence US policy towards the illegal air, land and sea blockade it faced in 2017, Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
US authorities say Allen lied about his role in an illegal foreign lobbying case on behalf of Qatar while withholding “incriminating” documents. The Brookings Institute placed Allen, its president, on administrative leave on Wednesday as the investigations continue to take place.
Foreign lobbying is illegal under US law, which stipulates that individuals working for a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice.
The latest developments come as part of a wider investigation into foreign lobbying by several US individuals.
Richard G Olson, former US ambassador to the UAE and Pakistan, pleaded guilty last week to federal charges over illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of Qatar.
Olson also revealed that the US general, who formerly led US and NATO forces in Afghanistan until late 2017, was also involved in the case.
Another name involved is Imaad Zuberi, a well-known political donor who has been charged with corruption and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.
According to reports on the case, Olson, Zubeiri, and Allen failed to register their lobbying efforts, which date back to the 2017 GCC crisis.
At the time, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed an illegal land, air, and sea blockade on Qatar. Court papers found that Allen played a key role in shifting the US’ stance during the rift, in which former President Donald Trump leaned towards the quartet against Doha.
The documents quoted by Al Jazeera stated that Zubeiri saw the GCC rift “as a business opportunity”. Zubeiri then asked Olson to start selling lobbying services, with the latter bringing Allen into the so-called business.
“If we can do this, we will own half of Qatar,” Zuberi wrote to Olson in a WhatsApp message cited in the filing.
In a search warrant application, FBI agent Babak Adib wrote that Allen did not properly detail his role in the lobbying and did not mention “that he was simultaneously pursuing multimillion-dollar business deals with the government of Qatar”.
Adib added that Allen lied about his work for the Gulf state during a 2020 interview with law enforcement officials and denied working as a Qatari agent.
“There is substantial evidence that these FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violations were willful,” wrote Adib in a search warrant application.
Allen defended his actions by saying he attempted to prevent a regional war that would risk the lives of US troops. Qatar hosts the US Al-Udeid Air Base, the largest in the region, where at least 10,000 troops are positioned.
Speaking to the Associated Press (AP) last week, Allen’s spokesperson Beau Phillips said his client “voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter” and that he had “not received a fee for his efforts”.
Leaning towards Qatar
According to media reports about the case, US authorities said Allen lobbied then-National Security Adviser HR McMaster for Trump to shift his stance towards Qatar.
In an email to the former adviser, Allen said the Qataris wanted the White House or US State Department of State to issue a statement that would call on all sides involved in the rift to “act with restraint”.
Federal law enforcement later said former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released the statement within two days, in which he called on the quartet to “ease the blockade against Qatar”.
Federal law enforcement authorities alleged Olson and Allen travelled to Qatar to meet with its leader.
An affidavit said Allen requested a $20,000 “speaker’s fee” from Olson and Zubeiri before the visit. The retired general also wanted to “work out a fuller arrangement of a longer-term relationship.”
The document added that Zubeiri had paid for Allen’s first-class ticket.
“At the same time he was lobbying US government officials on behalf of Qatar, Allen pursued at least one multimillion-dollar business deal with the Qatari government on behalf of a company on whose board of directors he served,” the affidavit said.
Al Jazeera said the Qatari foreign ministry as well as Doha’s embassy in Washington, DC have not commented on the matter.