Behind Closed Doors: The UAE's Lobbying Efforts in the US Capital

Behind Closed Doors: The UAE’s Lobbying Efforts in the US Capital

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a significant player in the Middle East, actively opposing Arab revolutions and the Arab Spring of 2011. Not only has the UAE led counter-revolution efforts within the region, but it has also extended its influence to Washington, the world’s foremost political capital. This article sheds light on the establishment of the Emirati lobby and its activities in Washington during the first decade of the Arab Spring.

The Emergence of the Emirati Lobby

The Emirati lobby gained prominence with the appointment of Yousef Al-Otaiba as UAE ambassador to the US in July 2008. Before his tenure, most UAE contracts in the US were conducted through Dubai’s financial and tourism institutions. However, since 2011, the Emirati lobby has disclosed payments amounting to $132,716,000 in return for lobbying services and public relations campaigns to safeguard Emirati interests in Washington.

Key Figures and Firms in the Emirati Lobby

One of the prominent firms representing the UAE’s interests in the US is Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld (Akin Gump). Hired by the UAE in 2007, the firm has been involved in crucial matters such as the UAE’s work on the nuclear file and the coordination of the Open Skies agreement between the US and the UAE. Notably, Akin Gump played a significant role in the UAE’s campaign against Al-Jazeera. The firm received $20,197,000 since 2011 for its services. Notable individuals working for the UAE include Hal Shapiro, a US political and economic advisor with previous experience at the White House, and former Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a leading figure on the Foreign Affairs Committees. Akin Gump, with assistance from DLA Piper, worked on the nuclear issue, receiving payments of $1.6 million for implementing the agreement.

Outlook Investments and the Investment Diplomacy Group

Outlook Investments, an Abu Dhabi-owned firm, enlisted the Investment Diplomacy Group, owned by Scott, to provide “analytical services” on the UAE and US security partnerships. However, the exact nature of the activities remains undisclosed, despite a payment of $150,000 to the firm.

American Defence International’s Role

The American Defence International firm played a key role in coordinating a congressional delegation trip to the UAE in October 2019. The delegation visited the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation to witness the UAE’s significant milestone in reaching 25 per cent of its reactor capacity. The UAE lobby launched promotional campaigns for the reactor, highlighting its achievements.

The Emirati lobby’s presence in Washington has grown significantly since its establishment in 2008. Through influential firms, key individuals, and substantial financial resources, the UAE has effectively secured its interests in the US, exerting its influence on various matters, including the nuclear issue and the Open Skies agreement. As the UAE continues to assert its role on the international stage, the Emirati lobby remains a formidable force in shaping policies and perceptions in Washington.

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