Qatar has paid $2.5 million to the law firm of a former attorney general under U.S. President George W. Bush to audit its efforts at stopping terrorism funding, a matter at the heart of the Gulf diplomatic crisis that erupted last week.
John Ashcroft personally will lead his Washington-based firm’s efforts “to evaluate, verify and as necessary, strengthen the client’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing” compliance, according to documents filed to the U.S. Justice Department. Qatar hiring Ashcroft, who was attorney general during the September 11 attacks and then helped push through the Patriot Act, appeared aimed at appeasing the Gulf nations now trying to isolate it. Officials in Qatar, home to a major U.S. military base, and Ashcroft’s firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and cut off land, sea and air routes to the tiny peninsular nation that relies on food imports. Its long-haul carrier Qatar Airways has also been affected. At the heart of the dispute are the long-standing allegations linking Qatar to regional Islamist and militant groups. Qatar denies supporting terrorist organizations, but Western officials regularly have accused Qatar’s government of allowing or even encouraging the funding of some Sunni extremists. Qatar also has hosted a leader of Hamas, the militant Islamic group ruling the Gaza Strip, as well as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group that Gulf nations consider a threat to their hereditary rule.