WASHINGTON (JTA) — Qatar is paying $50,000 a month for outreach to the Jewish community to a prominent Jewish Republican operative, at a time when the Gulf nation is facing calls for isolation from other moderate Arabs and by conservatives in Washington.
“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran’s sphere of influence,” Nicholas Muzin, whose Stonington Strategies secured the contract, this week told O’Dwyer’s, a newsletter covering the PR industry.
Muzin, an observant Jew, is a rising star among conservative Republicans. He has served as a senior adviser to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and was an advisor to the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and to the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pressure on Qatar in recent months has increased because of its openness to dealing with Iran, its ties with radical Islamist groups and because of the influence of the Al Jazeera news network, which is based in Qatar. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on this issue, with President Donald Trump appearing to back Saudi-led efforts to isolate the country, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposes them.
An array of pro-Israel figures in Washington have joined the effort to pressure Qatar to fall more in line with conventional Sunni Arab outlooks, as determined mostly by Saudi Arabia. Leading the lobbying is Bluelight Strategies, a PR outfit that often represents Jewish, Democratic and pro-Israel groups. One of Bluelight’s principles, Steve Rabinowitz, told JTA that his shop’s efforts, including a recent conference on Qatar, were wholly funded by Khalid Al-Hail, a Qatari businessman who is one of the leaders of the Qatari political opposition.
Qatar has for decades acted independently of others in the region, in part as a means of accruing leverage to resist pressure from the Saudis. This has led to its openness to dealing with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood — but also with Israel. Qatar is one of the few Arab states where Israelis travel freely.