By Ali AlAhmed
August 13, 2017
Washington DC – Leaked emails showing millions in cash the U.A.E. government paid to the Washington-based Middle East Institute, exposes the vulnerability of United States’ security regime, and seriously questions the organizations credibility and its analysis.
The payment of $20 million was given to MEI in installments from 2016 and through this year from U.A.E. strongman, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, leaked emails sent to the Global Leaks to the Institute for Gulf Affairs show.
Emails between U.A.E ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and Richard Clarke the chairman of MEI and the former counter terrorism czar under the Bush administration showed the money came from the highest authority in the U.A.E. bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and U.A.E. leading de- facto ruler.
Clarke’s emails from May 17, 2016 show he accepted an invitation for a private fully-paid two-day gathering in Abu Dhabi that focuses on themes of global significance, said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of Mubadala, U.A.E. investment company owned by Abu Dhabi rulers Al Nahyan clan, and chaired by Mohamed bin Zayed. Clarke also serves on the board of including the Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, public university in exchange of an unknown annual payment.
It seems that the arrangements for payment were made during this trip where Clarke met with Bin Zayed himself who only can make such a large commitment.
Later in July 11 Clarke emailed to MEI President Wendy Chamberlin a longtime defender of U.A.E. and Saudi monarchies explaining the money was approved by Mohamed Bin Zayed and will come from Tawazun, a fund created by Saif Al Hajeri, CEO of Tawazun.
On October 16 Al Hajeri emailed Clarke and Al Otaiba informing Clarke that the $20 million will now come via The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) a front of the U.A.E government. ECSSR will transfer the funds directly to MEI, Al Hajeri said.
This email was in response to a Clarke email pressing Al Hajeri for the funds to pay for the construction of MEI new headquarters in Washington.
The U.A.E and Saudi cash to MEI had a clear effect on the institute’s operations, publications and analysis. It has effectively made all its analysts mouthpieces for these two countries. Since the September 11 attacks, MEI has never held a single event on Saudi links to terrorism, the September 11 attacks or its horrendous human rights records. It also has never hired or invited a single critical voice of Saudi or U.A.E. policies or published anything remotely critical of the two absolute monarchies.
A review of years of MEI analysis of Saudi and U.A.E reveals a tremendous amount of misleading information and propaganda material aimed at influencing a favorable U.S. policies toward the two monarchies.
The Case of Clarke
The dozens of email between Clarke and Al Otaiba reveal a disturbing example of how most senior American officials running U.S. nationals security can be easily had by autocratic regimes such as the U.A.E. This example makes it impossible to trust the current-serving officials to carry out their constitutional duties of protecting U.S. interests and not to line their pockets with foreign money.
It is clear that these payments were not paid without a return on investment. Clarke and other members of MEI board positions are tied to the U.A.E. and Saudi stance.
In September of 2016, Clarke signed a letter sent to congress against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA that allowed the families of September 11 victims to sue the Saudi government for its role in the attacks. All the letter signers maintain financial ties to U.A.E. Saudi governments or both, showing their positions were linked to their business ties and not American interests even in such highly sensitive matter where thousands of American lives were lost.
Another evidence of how U.A.E cash drove Clarke to adopt its monarchy’s positions came in an op-ed he published in the New York Daily News in July weeks after an intense political fight broke out between U.A.E allied with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt on one hand and Qatar on the other hand. The quartet accused Qatar of destabilizing their countries and supporting terrorism. Clarke accused Qatar of supporting terrorism echoing U.A.E. positions but left out any mention of U.A.E and Saudi roles in the September 11 attacks carried out by 15 Saudis and two U.A.E. nationals. The 9/11 hijackers used U.A.E. to send the funds for the operation and traveled from Dubai to the U.S. to launch the attacks.
Clarke’s statements on Qatar were celebrated by both Saudi and U.A.E media. They were also used in TV spots ran on American stations paid for by Saudi Public relations Council (SAPRAC) headed by Saudi national Salman AlAnsari and funded by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, IGA learned.
The source said that Clarke hated the Saudi government while serving at the White House but changed his views after MEI started getting Saudi money. The source said at one occasions, Clarke came to the embassy and walked out with a $500,000 check.
The millions of cash and has a clear effect on MEI and its leadership, and extends to American officials currently serving. The U.A.E cash casts significant doubts on retired General Anthony Zinni, MEI Honorary Chairman, who is now serving as U.S. envoy to mediate in the Gulf crisis between the Saudi-U.A.E. block and Qatar.
Zinni’s close financial ties to the U.A.E government jeopardize his impartiality and his capacity to broker an end of the GCC conflict. Mr. Zinni couldn’t be reached for comments. Board members are compensated for their MEI-related travel and activities.
IGA also tried to reach MEI President Chamberlin but she refused to answer any questions regarding the issue by email or phone.
On the Saudi side, MEI board of governors is being stacked by pro-Saudi figures who have maintained the organization’s pro-Saudi analysis.
The Qorvis Bribery
MEI board includes Michael Petruzzello, Saudi public relations front man and the chief executive officer of Qorvis, a long-time Saudi public relations firm. Petruzzello enjoys private and business relations with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel AlJubair. Petruzzello is suspected of giving former vice presidential nominee John Edwards hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of the Saudi government through a carefully-crafted real-estate deal to influence the Kerry-Edwards policies if they were elected in 2004.
The FBI raided Qorvis in 2004 looking for evidence after Petruzzello made a $100,000 deposit in an escrow account to Edwards. A former FBI agent who led the raid told IGA that the agency knew this was bribery but wanted evidence to bring it to court. Kerry’s tone on Saudi Arabia changed after the deal.
MIE Board Member Terror Links
The board also includes pro-Saudi Monarchy Robert Jordan who served as U.S. Ambassador to Riyadh just after September 11.
Jordan built strong ties with at least one Saudi extremist and terror-funding organization. Jordan hosted the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh in. WAMY openly funded U.S.-designated terrorist groups in Kashmir, and other Middle Eastern countries. Jordan also attended the organization’s annual banquet. WAMY he group also published anti-Jewish and anti-Shia publications in several languages and distributed them in Washington DC . World Assembly of Muslim Youth is a Saudi government entity based in Riyadh with office in many countries. Its U.S. offices were shutdown after September 11. The FBI raided WAMY offices in Washington DC in 2004 and its offices were closed down.
Jordan also served as Partner in Charge for Baker Botts, Middle East Offices in Dubai in 2010 until 2015. The firm enjoys strong financial ties with U.A.E and Saudi monarchies. Sources at the Saudi embassy told IGA, of the numerus times Jordan sought to meet then Saudi ambassador to Washington Adel AlJubair to seek financial contracts.
Jordan had made bigoted statements against Arabs repeatedly during TV interviews including during an interview on CNN January 2015 when he described the population of Saudi Arabia as backward and the Saudi monarchy is forward-thinking. He reiterated the same position on the defunct AlJazeera America. Jordan contacts did not answer calls and emails from IGA.
Another pro-Saudi MEI board member is H.P. Goldfield, who also serves as a senior international affairs advisor to Hogan Lovells, a Saudi lobby firm who received millions of dollars from the Saudi Embassy. Goldfield and Petruzzello are longtime friends and are AlJubair closest associates in Washington, a source familiar with the relationship told IGA.
U.A.E. embassy media office and the office of Al Otaiba refused to comment in spite of mutable emails and phone calls.