Giuliani Defends Ties to Qatar
By: Wall Street Journal
Candidate Says Firm’s Work Helped Regime Fight Terror
By MARY JACOBY and CHIP CUMMINS
Rudy Giuliani yesterday defended his consulting firm’s work in Qatar, saying he was bolstering a moderate Persian Gulf regime in its fight against Islamic terrorists.
“The country of Qatar is taking the grave risk of having American soldiers there,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They need security; the government there needs security. We’re dealing with the same Islamic terrorist threat there as we do all over the world.”
The Republican presidential candidate’s remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” were his first public comments on his private firm’s work in the energy-rich desert emirate. The Wall Street Journal reported on his business arrangement last month.
The work has drawn scrutiny because he has campaigned on a platform of aggressive antiterror policies. In 1996, al Qaeda sympathizers in the Qatar government helped the eventual mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks escape U.S. arrest, U.S. intelligence officials have said. After the 2001 attacks, Qatar became host to the U.S.’s most important military air base in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mr. Giuliani’s firm, which was set up in 2002, still provides security assessments for most of Qatar’s critical infrastructure, including its airport, roads, electrical grid and a natural-gas processing facility and port called Ras Laffan, according to people familiar with the work.
Mr. Giuliani’s standing in national polls has dropped in recent weeks, and his campaign is lagging behind in many of the key early-voting states. The former New York City mayor is facing new questions about his former New York police commissioner and business partner, Bernard Kerik, among other issues, which appear to have eroded his support. The questions include possible conflicts of interest between the clients of his consulting firm and the policies he may set if he were to become president.
Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that all his work has been “ethical, lawful, decent.” Of his clients, he said: “None of them involve any kind of conflict of any kind.”
While Mr. Giuliani declines to release a list of clients for his consulting business, Giuliani Partners LLC, citing a need for business confidentiality, he said in yesterday’s NBC interview that “just about every single client of Giuliani Partners…has been discussed, has been examined, certainly every significant one.” Even so, some clients could remain undisclosed, because he isn’t required to offer such detail on the financial-disclosure report he filed to run for president.
Mr. Giuliani’s firm has sought business throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, say people familiar with its work. Mr. Giuliani made $4.1 million from Giuliani Partners between January 2006 and May 2007, the disclosure report said. He owns 30% of the concern.
In Qatar, Mr. Giuliani’s firm operates out of a suite of offices on the 10th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, the country’s capital, say people familiar with its operations there. Hotel records show the offices are registered to a company called Al-Barra Trading.
The hotel records list in parentheses the name “Ali Soufiyan” next to another suite also registered to Al-Barra Trading. That appears to be an alternative spelling for Ali Soufan, an Arabic-speaking former FBI agent who is now the international business-development director for Giuliani Security & Safety International, one of Mr. Giuliani’s firms.
In the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks, Mr. Soufan played a crucial role investigating al Qaeda. Mr. Soufan quit the FBI in 2005 to work for Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Soufan’s personal relationship with the crown prince of Qatar, Tameem Bin Hamad Al-Thani, is the driving force behind Mr. Giuliani’s contract, according to the people familiar with the company’s work. The Al-Thani family has ruled the Islamic monarchy since the mid-1800s. Its representatives haven’t responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Soufan didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Giuliani Partners, Sunny Mindel, said the firm wouldn’t make him available to comment.
The Qatar government in the mid-1990s invited al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his family to live in Qatar, the 9/11 commission found. Mr. Mohammed was given a job at the Qatar Ministry of Electricity and Water. At the time, Mr. Mohammed was under indictment in the Southern District of New York for his role in a plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners. He was also wanted for questioning in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In 1996, FBI agents arrived in Qatar to arrest Mr. Mohammed. But the Qataris resisted handing him over, and Mr. Mohammed slipped away, U.S. intelligence officials told the 9/11 commission. Mr. Mohammed went on to plan the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that it was “completely distorted” to suggest his firm was being paid by the same people who helped Mr. Mohammed escape.
Write to Mary Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org and Chip Cummins at email@example.com
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