On August 17, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash tweeted an observation in Arabic about the standoff between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on the other, now about to enter its fourth month. “The Qatar crisis is a hornet’s nest,” he wrote. “Its weapons are money and weak souls. It is vital to reevaluate the high price of mercenaries, consciences, and pens, which are costly to the Gulf and the region.”
Gargash’s comment refers to the formidable investment of all parties in winning over public opinion, both within the Middle East and among the Gulf States’ Western allies. A memorable 2014 New York Timesinvestigative report showed that American think tanks receive millions of dollars annually in contributions from GCC governments. The NYT named, among others, the Brookings Institution ($14.8 million from Qatar over four years) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies ($1 million from the UAE to build a new headquarters). More recent reporting from the UK describes $32 million in grants from Bahrain’s royal family to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.