The Omar-Qatar controversy explained

The Omar-Qatar controversy explained

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Last week, a story emerged in the Saudi-funded outlet Al Arabiya English alleging that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been working as a foreign agent for Qatar and it quickly started circulating among conservatives online. But, a Daily Caller investigation has found the allegations against the Minnesota representative are vastly questionable and appear to be a smear campaign spearheaded by a "fake" imam, according to the Krassenstein brothers.

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The initial story relied on the testimony of Alan Bender, a Kuwaiti-born Canadian businessman who worked as a fixer for the Saudi ruling family, Qatar's mortal enemy. In the 200 pages of his testimony, Bender said that he was hired to recruit American politicians and journalists as assets and that when he refused, he was told that some were already working on behalf of the Qatar government, including Omar who was described, among other questionable claims, as a “sex maniac." He claimed she passed sensitive information that was then relayed to Iran.

"They groomed her and arranged the foundation, the grounds, for her to get into politics way before she even showed interest. They convinced her,” Bender said of Omar.

CNN, the New York Times, and The Washington Post, according to Bender, also have employees that are being paid by Qatar to paint the country and government in a favorable manner.

But, despite claiming that Qatar revealed a lot of details to him, and in spite of his history with Saudi Arabia, Bender didn't disclose any names.

A deposition with little relevance: The Daily Caller reports that Bender's testimony didn't bear much significance in the case against Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, who was accused of ordering an American bodyguard to kill two people. The outlet also found the deposition was not credible, citing several mistakes, including referring to Rep. Omar as a senator multiple times.

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The "fake" imam, also known as the "Imam of Peace" on social media, is Mohamad Tawhidi, an Australian Muslim who, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, never graduated from his alma mater and therefore, "has no competency to do religious activities or preach sermons.” Instead, he went to study under an "ultra-conservative" cleric who supports marriage between grown men and 9-year-old girls and Sharia law, and is against women holding positions in a government body.

On social media, Tawhidi is an avid critic of extremism and non-Western elements in Islam. For months, he has been promoting the idea that Omar was linked to the Qatar government.

The Krassenstein brothers, in a Facebook post, published shortly after the allegations against Omar emerged, said that Bender reached out to them and told them there was an effort to smear the congresswoman, led by Tawhidi. Bender said that he "was working with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and coordinating with Donald Trump Jr, and several other right-wing donors and activists to 'bring down Omar by Christmas,'" the post reads. He also showed them "dozens of texts which he claimed were from Tawhidi to himself. These texts included details of who Tawhidi paid and what their plot was."

He later shifted position and told them he would back Tawhidi’s claims. “It appears that something happened in August which turned … Alan Bender against Qatar. Whether it was another foreign government paying [him] (i.e. Saudi Arabia) or some other international battle in the mid-east, I am not 100% certain,” the post reads.

"Bender then began threatening to testify under oath that he was told by officials in Doha that Ed and I were agents of Qatar,” Brian Krassenstein said in an interview with the Daily Caller. He explained that he was in contact with Bender because he often served as a source for his website when it came to Middle East affairs. He said that Bender told them Tawhidi planned on damaging Omar's reputation with "forged documents and lies.”

“Ed and I have hundreds of claims made by Bender, both before and after he suddenly changed his narrative. One such claim was that Saudi Arabia offered him $20m in order to sell out Qatar and provide their secrets to the Saudis,” he added.

The brothers said the smear campaign against Omar was the work of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and a group of well-known American conservative figures.

Worth noting: The Krassenstein brothers, known for trolling the president and his supporters on social platforms, were banned from Twitter earlier this year. The company said they boosted their reach with fake accounts and thus, violated the platform's rules. In 2017, police seized almost half a million dollars from the brothers as part of a probe into pyramid schemes and online fraud.

How do we know that the Krassenstein brothers are telling the truth? We don't, but one detail they predicted turned out to be true. While Tawhidi was still trumpeting on social media that a second witness would back the claims against Omar, the Krassenstein brothers said it would be Abdullah Al-Saleh. On Nov. 26, he tweeted that he's willing to testify and back Bender's account.

Omar has denied the allegations. "Since the day she was elected, Saudi Arabian trolls and mouthpieces have targeted Omar with misinformation and conspiracy theories. The latest, outlandishly absurd story from a Saudi-funded media outlet is, of course, false and only the latest in that trend," a representative for the congresswoman told the Jerusalem Post.

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