Al Jazeera, the radical Islamist media empire that is fully controlled by the nation of Qatar, is breaking American laws by continuing to operate in the United States without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). There is no distinction between Al Jazeera and the nation of Qatar. They are the same entity, and the evidence is available for anyone to observe.
FARA was originally enacted in 1938 — just three years prior to the U.S. entry into World War II — with the goal to keep tabs on individuals and companies working for the Communist Soviet Union and for Nazi Germany. Today, FARA provides a database of individuals and groups that lobby on behalf of foreign nations, both friends and foes alike.
New guidance issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which presides over FARA, has required several state-owned entities to register under its guidelines. Given the newfound attention to foreign meddling in American politics, the DOJ took up a new initiative to update compliance practices over the past couple of years. Several China- and Russia-controlled state media entities have already followed suit, registering under FARA and fulfilling their compliance obligations.
Al Jazeera, on the other hand, has ignored the new guidance and has misled the public about its true nature.
Al Jazeera is owned by Al Jazeera Media Network, which is currently chaired by Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family. The media outfit was founded in the mid-1990s thanks to a $150 million grant from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, according to The New York Times. At the time, the sheikh was serving as the leader, or emir, of Qatar. In 2013, he passed the torch to his aforementioned cousin, who operates the network today.
Since its founding, there has never been a disconnect between Al Jazeera and Qatar. No policies have been supported on Al Jazeera’s airwaves that even remotely contradict Qatar’s policy objectives. There has never been non-Qatari royal leadership at the top of Al Jazeera. And all of the money that funds Al Jazeera comes directly from the government of Qatar’s coffers. In recognizing this reality, lawmakers in Congress have waged a renewed push for the media conglomerate to register under FARA.
Last week, a group of Republican senators wrote a letter to DOJ asking that Al Jazeera registered as a foreign agent.
“When the available evidence is taken as a whole, it appears that Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, including AJ+, mirror the policies and preferences of the Qatari government, which, together with the state funding and other indicia of agency, demonstrate that Al Jazeera and its media subsidiaries act as alter egos of the Qatari government in ensuring dissemination of the government’s viewpoints,” read a letter signed by the likes of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), among others.
The letter continues (internal citations omitted):
“In addition to Al Jazeera seemingly operating as an agent of the Qatari government, its potential obligation to register under FARA may be triggered by two other provisions in the statute. First, because it produces and distributes content and secures access within the United States, it has arguably engage[d] directly or indirectly in the ... dissemination of ... broadcasts, and therefore may have served as a publicity agent. Second, because its programming concerned conditions of a foreign government or foreign country, including but not limited to Qatar, Al Jazeera may have served as an information-service employee by furnishing, disseminating, or publishing its programs.”
Since its inception, Al Jazeera has bolstered the world’s most notorious extremists. Today, in 2019, It continues that work. Watch enough Al Jazeera Arabic, and you may run into a host who forcefully declares that jihadi suicide bombers are holy “martyrs.” You may also find the network glorifying infamous Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders. On a bigger scale, Al Jazeera weaponizes its “coverage” of Middle East affairs to incite Islamist rebellions in rival nations.
At the same time, Qatar claims to be a reliable U.S. ally — even as its leaders in Doha continues to aid and abet U.S.-designated terrorist groups and fill Al Jazeera's airwaves with anti-American, pro-terrorist agitprop.
Importantly, Al Jazeera’s English-language coverage is far different from what is seen on Al Jazeera Arabic. The English programming is uniquely curated for a Western, progressive audience. Knowing that praising radical Islamists may not win over the hearts and minds of Americans, the management at Al Jazeera English, as well as its social media-heavy brand AJ+, has decided to strike themes that are more comfortable to Westerners. But the goals remain the same. In both English and Arabic, Al Jazeera has one purpose: Advancing the objectives of the royal family that rules Qatar.
However, Al Jazeera, through a third-party firm representing the media outfit, has rejected the claim that it is a wholly-owned and controlled entity of the state of Qatar. The third-party firm told the Washington Examiner last week that the Islamist media outlet “is not owned by Qatar” and that “its reporting is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government nor does it reflect any government viewpoint.”
This is simply not true. On paper, lawyers can devise crafty language to claim that Al Jazeera is not directly owned by Qatar. But it is a reality that the Qatari royals that control the network use it as an organ for the expressed purpose to support and advance Doha’s position of power in the world.
Having Al Jazeera register under FARA will provide much-needed transparency for efforts to uncover Qatar’s cash-flush influence operations in Washington, D.C. If Al Jazeera registers under FARA, its paid agents in the United States will also have to file disclosures about the work that they are doing for the Doha regime. Additionally, FARA compliance will ensure that both the general public and government officials can understand Al Jazeera’s radical Islamist programming as a means to advance Qatar’s national interests. Perhaps then, more and more members of Congress and the Trump administration will come to understand that Qatar is not the partner and ally that the emirs in Doha claim it to be.
Jordan Schachtel is a foreign policy analyst and investigative reporter.