Investigations: U.A.E. Ambassador Gave Cash to Witnesses of Congressional Hearing on U.S. Qatar Relations

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July 26, 2017
By Ali AlAhmed

Washington DC – Hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the U.S. to a witness testifying at a congressional hearing later today are casting doubts on his credibility, leaked documents show.

The Center for a New American Security, whose Director of the Middle East Security Program Ilan Goldenberg will testify before the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, received at least $250,000 in from the United Arab Emirates embassy, the documents show.

The hearing “Assessing the U.S.-Qatar Relationship,” is scheduled for July 26 and called by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.

The emails also show Mr. Goldenberg’s extensive email and phone communications with U.A.E. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba since last summer to fund CNAS work and a trip of Goldenberg and colleagues to the U.A.E.

The emails came from the group known as Global Leaks who sent it to the Institute for Gulf Affairs days ago.

The emails also show Goldenberg pushing business contracts for Lockheed Martin, while CNAS’s chief executive officer Michèle Flournoy was lobbying Al Otaiba for Polaris to win a U.A.E. government contract.

The August 2016 invoice was signed by Flournoy and submitted to Ambassador Al Otaiba to request payment for a study about U.A.E missile technology control regime. The study was given to Al Otaiba in February 2017 and distributed to U.A.E leadership, including Abu Dhabi’s crown Prince and strongman Mohamed Bin Zayed, emails show.

CNAS did not answer any questions posed by IGA but emailed the written testimony of Mr. Goldenberg delivered to the subcommittee and included a footnote acknowledging the $250,000 payment. The payment, the statement said, was for a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) project carried out by CNAS and managed by Goldenberg. U.A.E. is not party to the MTCR.

The other two witnesses are Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Matthew Levitt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Following the publications of this story, Levitt wrote an email to IGA stating that the following: “For the record: by longstanding policy The Washington Institute accepts no funding from any foreign source, UAE or otherwise. In fact, we take no foreign money, from anyone. Full stop.”

Previous press reports on the matter show that the U.A.E ambassador Al Otaiba has exchanged emails with F.D.D. regarding a one-day conference it organized in May titled “Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Affiliates: New U.S. Administration Considers New Policies.”

Keith Fernandez, communications director at Ros-Lehtinen’s office, and Audra McGeorge, communications director at House Foreign Affairs Committee, did not return emails or phone calls.

The Qatari and U.A.E embassies also did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting comment.

Pay-to-Play Research?
While the autocratic governments’ funding of American think-tanks is common knowledge, this case, in particular, is raising legal and ethical questions for congressional committees who rely on witnesses possibly compromised by foreign cash. It also highlights how foreign cash can influence foreign policy leaders at the executive and legislative branches. It shows how think-tanks can be leveraged to soft-lobby the government on behalf of one country or against another.

There is a direct link between foreign payments received by the American think tanks, and their analysis and conclusions. “They are willing to compromise their allegiances,” said Max Abrahams, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University.

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