They splurge on movie studios, $300 million paintings, and eye-popping real estate. They are among the financiers of first and last resort when legitimate international enterprises want to get a deal done. And if U.S. and Israeli intelligence claims are to be believed, financing ISIS is, or was, a part of the rather eclectic portfolio.
Ah yes, the strangely independent minded Qataris are kind of like the alternative lifestyle crowd of the great Gulf sheikdoms; awash in cash, throwing it around big time, and excited to entertain all sorts of suitors and experiences. Some of it in the name of power, some in the name of pleasure.
The breadth of the Qatari portfolio is magnificent. Did you know they own the Miramax movie library and name?
An entertainment company built by Jews with products that celebrated violence, sex, and decadent Western values, including classic movies such as Pulp Fiction. And it’s actually now in the same holding company as the Al Jazeera news network, an enterprise which has allowed Qatar to exercise considerable power in the region. Those two brands under the same roof may not be so strange; both Al Jazeera and Miramax created products with blood and guts. However for Al Jazeera’s first, seminal days this meant showcasing beheading videos and other disgusting terrorist propaganda.
And as for the whole funding of terror issue, it’s sometimes chalked up to “rogue princes” with “too much time on their hands.” Which is a really convenient excuse that was also used for years by Saudis when asked about the clear financial contributions to Al Qaeda from within the Saudi elite.
Some of the Qatari elite spend their time and money on more acceptable pursuits, which also do not pose existential threats to Western civilization. Indeed the current Emir’s sister, the Sheikha Al Mayassa, is known as the single most important (biggest) buyer of art in the world.
She has built a fantastic museum in Doha that has “brought the world’s leading contemporary artists — including Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and Richard Serra — to the region, and she’s thought to have overseen Qatar’s $300-million purchase of Paul Gaugin’s “When Will You Marry,” the most expensive painting ever sold, in 2015.”
And while Mayassa’s (distant?) relatives may aid the blood-thirsty black flag crowd, her brother’s sovereign investment fund, the QIA, may be your landlord. “The QIA was the fourth-biggest investor in U.S. office space in 2016, mostly in New York and Los Angeles, according to Real Capital Analytics Inc. The fund acquired almost 10 percent of Empire State Building owner Empire State Realty Trust Inc. last year, and partnered with Brookfield Property Partners LP on an $8.6 billion mixed-use project on New York’s far west side.”
Among business people who travel to the Gulf there is a story told that a bunch of Emiratis (the guys from Abu Dhabi and their poorer relations in Dubai) are sitting around making fun of the Qataris. “We are analytical say,” says the Emiratis, “we only pay double what stuff is worth in our deals, those F-ing Qataris pay 4x, 5x.”
The Qataris are more cagey when it comes to international power dynamics and they do cherish their ability to play both sides. They cozy up to Iran and also host a very important U.S. air base. They support Hamas in the Palestinian territories and are friendly with Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of which the U.S. labels as terrorist organizations.
Qatar says it’s just following the will of the people across the Arab world and thumbing its nose at the elites. Like everything in the Middle East, there is always another side to the (golden) coin.