The UAE Lobby: How Center for New American Security Became a Mouthpiece for the Emirates

The UAE Lobby: How Center for New American Security Became a Mouthpiece for the Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is known for its repressive government, abusive labor practices, and controversial role in the Yemeni conflict. Despite these issues, leading U.S. think tanks rarely criticize the UAE and instead provide a platform to its influential ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba. Recently, hacked emails have shed light on the close relationship between the UAE and the Center for New American Security (CNAS), a prominent national security think tank, revealing how the UAE pushes its agenda through this institution.

The Link between Center for New American Security and Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba

CNAS, founded by Clinton administration alumni in 2007, has garnered significant influence in U.S. policy circles. Michele Flournoy, a senior Pentagon official under President Obama, co-founded CNAS and currently serves as its CEO. The hacked emails show a close bond between CNAS and Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba, with the UAE embassy funding a paper on military-grade drones’ legal regime, for which Flournoy billed $250,000.

Think Tanks and Funding Sources:

Think tanks, while often considered independent, frequently receive funding from various entities, including foreign governments. CNAS acknowledges its receipt of funds from the UAE and lists the country’s embassy as a donor. However, the leaked emails reveal a more intricate relationship where Otaiba pays for specific papers and discusses their content with the authors, indicating a potential influence on the think tank’s output.

The Push for Drone Sales:

The UAE sought to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a 35-nation agreement governing the export of specific large military-grade weapons. This move would enable the UAE to purchase advanced American attack drones. Otaiba commissioned a private paper on the MTCR from CNAS, emphasizing the UAE’s support for the think tank’s work. The paper subsequently aligned with the UAE’s objectives, pushing for a policy change by the Trump administration.

Surveillance Technology Sales:

The UAE is a significant consumer of surveillance technology, and the emails revealed Flournoy’s efforts to promote the sale of electronic surveillance tools from a U.S.-based firm to the UAE government. Flournoy contacted Otaiba, seeking his assistance in setting up a meeting for the company with UAE officials. The intercepted emails raised concerns about the UAE’s use of electronic surveillance to track political dissidents.

Independence and Relevance:

While CNAS maintains that its scholars are independent of their donors, the leaked emails have raised questions about the think tank’s impartiality. CNAS spokesperson Neal Urwitz asserted that Flournoy’s conversations promoting the technology sales occurred when she was working in the private sector, not at CNAS. However, the revelations have sparked discussions about transparency and the potential influence of foreign governments on think tanks’ research.

The leaked emails between Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba and the Center for New American Security have shed light on the UAE’s efforts to shape its image and advance its agenda in Washington, D.C. The influence of foreign governments on U.S. think tanks has become a subject of scrutiny, and these revelations have further raised concerns about the independence and credibility of such institutions in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

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