Foreign Agents in the Shadows: UAE's Lobbying Campaign in America

Foreign Agents in the Shadows: UAE’s Lobbying Campaign in America

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has wielded significant influence in the United States for decades, owing to its strategic importance and substantial oil reserves. Beyond military ties, the UAE has employed a robust lobbying and public relations campaign to sway U.S. policy while concealing its actions. This article sheds light on how the UAE leverages firms to lobby in the USA and examines its impact on foreign policy and media narratives.

UAE’s Extensive Lobbying Network:

The Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI) analyzed the 2018 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings, revealing 20 different firms acting as registered foreign agents for UAE clients. These firms received over $20 million in payments, conducted 3,168 political activities, and interacted with 200 Congressional offices, 18 think tanks, and mainstream media outlets. Notably, think tanks funded by the UAE were also involved in the lobbying efforts.

Shaping U.S. Foreign Policy:

The success of the Emirati lobby in shaping U.S. foreign policy is evident. Members of Congress working with Emirati foreign agents actively seek military support for the UAE. Some Middle East experts, affiliated with think tanks that received UAE donations, echo the UAE lobby’s talking points. Meanwhile, UAE foreign agents skillfully shape media narratives by collaborating with journalists from various mainstream media outlets.

The Tactics of UAE Lobbyists:

Hagir, Elawad & Associates stood out as the firm with the most political activities for the UAE, largely through mass email blasts targeting Congressional offices and Committees. The firm selectively distributed pro-UAE materials, presenting one-sided perspectives on UAE-related issues, such as their involvement in the Yemen war. Furthermore, Hagir Elawad & Associates engaged in direct contact with Congressional staff via phone or in-person discussions.

Influence Beyond Congress:

The Harbour Group, focusing on non-profits and media, reported a substantial number of political activities on behalf of the UAE in 2018. They strategically targeted think tanks and media outlets, further amplifying the Emirati agenda. Other influential lobbying firms, such as Akin, Gump, and DLA Piper, also represented UAE clients but exhibited more limited lobbying efforts.

Dual Representation: UAE and Saudi Arabia:

Notably, the Harbour Group and Akin, Gump represented both the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2018. However, the Harbour Group later terminated its relationship with Saudi Arabia following the Jamal Khashoggi incident, while Akin, Gump continued to represent both countries.

UAE’s Congressional Targets:

Congress was the primary focus of UAE foreign agents, with mass emails from Hagir, Elawad being the most common form of communication. Excluding these emails, UAE foreign agents still contacted Congress over 200 times, primarily targeting various Congressional Committees. They also contacted more than 50 individual Congressional officesWhile former Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was the most frequently contacted, no other member of Congress received more than four contacts.

The UAE’s extensive lobbying network, employing firms and think tanks, has played a significant role in influencing U.S. foreign policy and shaping media narratives. Despite this, much of the UAE’s lobbying activities remain undisclosed, and the implications of such influence on U.S. interests and values demand scrutiny and transparency. Understanding the dynamics of UAE lobbying in the USA is essential to maintain the integrity of American policy and democratic processes.

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