An amber-colored glass sculpture of a falcon, an Iranian silk carpet, a set of 12 silver spoons and a silver platter engraved with the world’s major cities were among the dozens of gifts given by Qatar to the US President and other American government officials, according to the US State Department.
In all, Qatar gave official gifts worth nearly US$60,000 (QR218,000), mostly during 2013, according to official records kept by the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol detailing the generosity of foreign governments across the world.
By law, US government officials are not allowed to keep gifts given to them by foreign government representatives and must turn them over to the country’s National Archives or other official body.
The details of each item, plus any travel paid for by other international organizations, are officially recorded and publicly published.
A couple of the items on the 2013 list were in fact received in earlier years, including a 51″ × 77″ Iranian Qom yellow and brown silk carpet with a medallion pattern worth $6,380. That was given by Qatar’s Attorney General – Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri – to Marc Grossman, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011.
The same year, Grossman also received a $430 Mont Blanc pen set from then-Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
These are included in the latest list as details of them were not available earlier, according to Patrick F. Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management at the US Department of State.
According to the list, official gifts given to US President Barack Obama in that year included a 26″ sculpture made from amber-colored glass that depicts a falcon perched on a branch looking over its shoulder, worth $10,408 from Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al Rumaihi, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States.
The former Emir gifted to First Lady Michelle Obama a set of 12 silver spoons, bearing “lion passant” and leopard head markings with flowers in polished wood presentation box, which are recorded to be worth $600.
Vice-President Joe Biden received a silver hanging clock worth $3,100 from then Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.
The most expensive official gift was a $12,000 Rolex watch given to US under-secretary of defense for intelligence Michael Vickers by the State of Qatar.
The records show that Vickers also received a $8,545 Cartier watch from the state of Qatar on the same day – Feb. 10, 2013.
While two of the five most valuable gifts to the Obamas came from Qatar, both had an estimated value far less than the $71,468 jewelery set gifted from the Queen of Brunei to America’s First Lady.
Designer watches are a popular gift choice and feature in a number of the records, as does perfume, jewelry and bolts of cloth.
Many of the entries on the list come from members of the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Air Force, reflecting the longstanding relations between Qatar and the US concerning defense. Qatar also hosts thousands of US troops at the Al Udeid Air Base.
In December last year, during a Gulf tour by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Qatar and the US signed a 10-year Defense Cooperation Agreement which confirmed that the US would continue to operate and maintain troops at the base through to at least 2024.
As part of the tour, Hagel met the Emir Sheikh Tamim and signed the agreement with Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah.
Many of the gifts given to officials in the Defense and Air Force departments are recorded to have come from Al-Attiyah, or are listed more generally as from the State of Qatar.
Qatar’s Attorney General Al Marri is noted to have given a number of gifts to officials related to the Departments of Justice, Defense and State, including:
- A rug with a case worth $420, to US Attorney General Eric Holder;
- A $2,100 model ship to Stephen W. Preston, General Counsel of the Department of Defense; and
- A silver-coloured metal and plastic ship to David Pearce, Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, worth $420.
You can access a full version of the list here.