The news broke last week in The Philadelphia Inquirer, followed by a front page story on Friday August 17th in The Star-Ledger.
“Sen. Robert Menendez’ campaign manager is also a paid lobbyist for the State of Qatar, a family run absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf region who’s closest ally is the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The most chilling aspect of the story as it is written so far, is the influence that Michael Soliman enjoys as Sen. Menendez’ campaign manager, as well as the income he makes as a paid lobbyist for Qatar. The State of Qatar is a sharia-law, oil-rich terrorist haven that has now caught the sympathetic ear of two of New Jersey’s most prominent lawmakers, Senator Robert Menendez and Representative Josh Gottheimer (R-NJ5).
What is most disturbing, according to both The Inquirer and The Star-Ledger is that if Menendez wins re-election in November, and Democrats take control of the Senate, the senator would be poised to chair the Foreign Relations Committee — potentially boosting Soliman’s value as a lobbyist and advancing Qatar’s investment in Mercury Public Affairs, Solimon’s international lobbying firm.
But this story hits much closer to home for residents of the NJ 5th Congressional district.
Michael Soliman, a partner at the self-described international strategy firm, Mercury Public Affairs, has been the head strategist for freshman representative Josh Gottheimer since his entry into the congressional race in 2015.
According to sources within Gotthiemer’s congressional office, Soliman’s influence over Gottheimer may be even more significant than his leverage over Menendez.
Besides campaign advice, Michael Soliman has been witnessed boasting about himself being the chief legislative architect for the freshman congressman that serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, as well as a member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance. Areas that are very important to Mercury Public Affairs clientele, especially since Qatar and Iran have entered into a very close ideological and economic relationship. According to a New York Times report from August 2017:
Qatar Restores Full Relations With Iran, Deepening Gulf Feud
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry announced that it was sending its ambassador back to Tehran after a 20-month hiatus that started in January 2016, when Qatar broke off relations after attacks on two Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran.
The Qataris gave no explanation for the sudden move. But the timing suggested a purposeful snub of Saudi Arabia, which along with three other countries began a punitive boycott of Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and having a too-cozy relationship with Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut their air and sea routes to Qatar, and closed its only land border, with Saudi Arabia.
Mediation by the United States, Kuwait and Germany has failed to resolve the feud in the gulf, the one corner of the Middle East that has been largely free of war, refugees or political turmoil in recent years. Analysts said the partial blockade has badly weakened the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and threatens to undermine regional stability.
According to insiders, Soliman has also been a significant force in advising the young congressman on foreign relations legislation that, according to the legislative tracking site, Govtrack.us, has accounted for 29% of all bills that Gottheimer has introduced. Soliman has also been credited as a driving force, along with Bill and Hillary Clinton and friends, in the Gotheimer fund raising juggernaut, particularly with clients and religious groups.
According to campaign filings as of June 30th, 2018, Gottheimer has raised over $5 million dollars, with most of it coming from large special interest contributors, many with ties to Mercury Public Affairs.
As Senator Menendez struggles to address the building controversy, Rep. Gottheimer has an equally difficult decision to make, whether to remove Soliman or to weather the storm and continue his questionable relationship with the lobbying firm that has steered him in the troubled international policy waters for the last two years.
Qatar is a sovereign state occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is be regarded as an absolute monarchy but does have a constitution. It is an Islamic nation that according to the constitution is ruled by a mixture of civil law and Sharia law.
Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation and is applied to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases, Sharia-based family courts treat a female’s testimony as being worth half that of a man. Codified family law was introduced in 2006. Islamic polygamy is permitted. Its sole land border is with neighboring Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf.
Qatar’s total population is 2.6 million which consists of 313,000 Qatari citizens and 2.3 million expatriates. Islam is the official religion of Qatar. The country has the highest per capita income in the world backed by the world’s third-largest natural-gas reserves and oil reserves.
For its size, Qatar wields disproportionate influence in the world. This increased influence of Qatar and its role during the Arab Spring, especially during the Bahraini uprising in 2011, worsened longstanding tensions with Saudi Arabia, the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen broke diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, escalating a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist organization by those 5 Arab nations. They accused Qatar of supporting and funding terrorism and manipulating internal affairs of its neighboring states, citing the country’s alleged support of groups they considered to be extremist.
Saudi Arabia explained the move to be a necessary measure in protecting the kingdom’s security. Qatari troops were also removed from the military coalition in Yemen. Egypt closed its airspace and seaports to all Qatari transportation.
In June 2018, Saudi Arabia announced a bid to construct a waterway, Salwa Canal, on their border with Qatar which shall in effect turn the latter into an island country.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated in May 2017 that “he doesn’t know instances in which Qatar aggressively goes after (terror finance) networks of Hamas, Taliban, Al-Qaeda.”
In June 9, 2017, during a press conference, President Trump backed Saudi Arabia and its allies in their diplomatic spat with Qatar, stating that Qatar has historically been funding terrorism at a very high level, and encouraging the countries to continue their blockade.
More to follow…