UAE’s ‘Immensely Influential’ Lobbying and PR Campaign in the US Exposed

UAE’s ‘Immensely Influential’ Lobbying and PR Campaign in the US Exposed

A recent report by the Center for International Policy (CIP), a Washington-based non-profit organization, sheds light on what it describes as the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) substantial and highly influential lobbying and public relations efforts in the United States. The report, published under CIP’s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, aims to uncover the workings of the “half-billion-dollar foreign influence industry working to shape US foreign policy every single day.”

This extensive apparatus of influence involved 20 US firms, which were compensated with $20 million in 2018 for their work on behalf of Emirati clients. At the core of this operation was an endeavor to enhance the UAE’s image, facilitated by targeted engagement with legislators, non-profit organizations, media outlets, and think-tanks. The UAE, a significant ally of Saudi Arabia, aimed to project a more favorable image through these efforts.

While both countries have led a controversial US-backed military coalition against Yemen’s rebel movement since 2015, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis, the UAE’s influence campaign extends further. This wealthy nation, with vast oil reserves and a population of one million, has faced criticism for its restrictive approach to freedom of speech, arbitrary detentions of citizens, and imprisonment of Western academics.

The report delves into the documents filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), a US law mandating disclosure of relationships and financial arrangements for agents representing foreign governments or groups. The UAE’s approach to influencing US policy shares similarities with Saudi Arabia’s strategy. Both nations heavily rely on FARA-registered lobbying and PR firms to shape their image in the US while minimizing awareness of their transgressions.

The CIP’s analysis revealed that the 20 firms working on behalf of the UAE reported executing 3,168 “political activities.” These activities, though broadly defined under FARA, must be reported. Notably, half of these actions were explicitly connected to Yemen, as criticism of the US involvement in the conflict escalated. These activities encompassed direct engagement with congressional offices, think-tanks, and major media outlets.

The influence campaign outlined in the report showcased a diverse range of tactics. From mass-emailing legislators with pro-UAE articles to cultivating relationships with members of Congress, prominent media figures, representatives from cultural institutions, and influential think-tanks with ties to the UAE, the UAE’s efforts were far-reaching.

The report also unveiled varying levels of transparency among FARA registrants. Several firms failed to meet the required degree of specificity, making it difficult to evaluate their actions on behalf of UAE clients. It’s worth noting that the scope of the influence campaign highlighted in the report is just a portion of a larger picture that includes oil and business interests, substantial contributions to think-tanks and US universities, and UAE officials’ presence within the inner circle of US President Donald Trump.

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