U.S. Orders Al Jazeera Affiliate to Register as Foreign Agent

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He added, of Al Jazeera, “they’re really not as important as they think they are.”

Qatar and the U.A.E., neighbors on the Persian Gulf, have been embroiled in a bitter geopolitical rivalry for several years. Three years ago, the U.A.E. imposed a blockade on the small country along with regional allies Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Among the U.A.E.’s complaints with Qatar’s government is its funding of Al Jazeera, whose primary, Arabic-language television network was sympathetic to protesters in the region during the Arab Spring of 2011.

A media consultant for the Embassy of Qatar in Washington declined to comment. But an official with knowledge of the matter said the administration’s order surprised Qatari diplomats who learned of it though news reports on Tuesday.

Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to confirm the letter’s existence but said, referring to the group responsible for enforcing the foreign agents law, “FARA Unit’s enforcement activities are based on following the facts where they lead and the applicable law.”

The letter was sent to AJ+ on the same day that Qatar’s deputy prime minister and top diplomat, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, met with top Trump administration officials for an annual strategic dialogue between the two countries. As part of the talks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo endorsed efforts for a “2021 Qatar Year of Culture” that will promote cultural exchanges with the United States.

“Our partnership has grown beyond just defense and economics into one of true friendship and community between our people and our two countries,” Mr. Pompeo said Monday, at the start of the bilateral discussion.

The talks themselves focused on a range of issues on which the two countries agreed to cooperate, including counterterrorism and military, health issues, investments and enhancing civil society. The blockade against Qatar was also among the discussions, Mr. Pompeo said.

“The Trump administration is eager to see this dispute resolved and to reopen Qatar’s air and land borders currently blocked by other Gulf States,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I look forward to progress on this issue.”

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