In Biden Aid Nominee, Repressive Gulf Monarchy Found Enthusiastic Ally

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Tamara Cofman Wittes

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”  Psalms 95:6 (KJV) 

Joe Biden’s nominee for a top role at the U.S. Agency for International Development has a long history of praising Qatar, the oppressive Gulf state with a shoddy human rights record that includes restrictions on free expression and the criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

Tamara Cofman Wittes is slated to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, where the panel will consider her nomination to be an assistant administrator of USAID. If confirmed, she would be responsible for distributing billions of American aid dollars throughout the Middle East.

As a Middle East policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she worked first from 2003 to 2009 and then from 2012 until earlier this month, Wittes lavished praise on Qatar, a repressive nation that discriminates against gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. Wittes described Qatar’s capital city Doha as a “global gathering place for dialogue” and amplified Qatari leaders’ claims that they support human rights and oppose “extremists who exploit religion to incite violence.”

 The Brookings Institution was at the time raking in millions from Qatar—its “Doha Center,” renamed after the organization came under scrutiny for the partnership, had a controversial 14-year run. Wittes’s confirmation hearing comes as the Brookings Institution faces renewed scrutiny over its foreign financial ties. The think tank’s president, retired general John Allen, resigned on Sunday amid news that he is under federal investigation for his alleged role in illegally lobbying for Qatar.

While the Brookings Institution took money from several foreign governments over the past decade, Qatar appears to be its most significant foreign donor, pouring at least $22 million into the think tank between 2013 and 2021, according to congressional financial dis…

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