US intel report accuses UAE of ‘manipulating American political system’

Since 2016, the UAE has reportedly spent more than $154 million on US-based lobbyists, according to Justice Department records.

A recent investigation by Intelligence Online, a publication covering secret diplomacy, undercover operations and sensitive intelligence-gathering, has uncovered the source of funding for a number of  influential policy influencers and pundits in America. 

In a report published on 9th November, the publication links senior fellow at the right-wing Claremont Institute David Reaboi who had co-founded and served as the senior vice president of the Security Studies Group think tank (SSG) which was shut down in 2021 – to Elliot Broidy, venture capitalist and Republican Party fundraiser.

Intelligence Online concluded that the SSG was “almost certainly” financed by Elliott Broidy, whose biggest client for years has been the United Arab Emirates.

An article by the Washington Post published on Saturday also disclosed that a classified report has been obtained by US Intelligence, stipulating that the UAE have exerted  ‘extensive efforts’ in ‘manipulating the American political system’. 

According to sources close to the Washington Post, the activities of the American ally included legal and illegal attempts to influence American policy over various US administrations  in favour of “Arab autocracy.” As per the sources, these activities included reliance on campaigns, access to powerful lobbying firms and “lax enforcement of disclosure laws intended to guard against interference by foreign governments.”

Since 2016, the UAE has reportedly spent more than $154 million on US-based lobbyists, according to Justice Department records, and millions of dollars in funds and donations to American think tanks and universities, many that produce policy papers with findings favourable to UAE interests.

Favourable UAE interests appear to have also encompassed anti-Qatar campaigns. As per the Intelligence Online report, important evidence included previously unreported 2022 court filings that show Reaboi fighting fiercely to quash a subpoena that would require him to turn over all communications and documents relating to his secret collusion in anti-Qatar PR campaigns, and to disclose payments he received, and from whom.

Broidy charged with secret lobbying for foreign actors

In an apparent track-record of illegal covert lobbying, Broidy pleaded guilty in October 2020  to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by “secretly working as a lobbyist for Chinese and Malaysian actors,” including advocating for a Chinese dissident living in the US to be deported back to his homeland, as per the report by Intelligence Online.

During  the sentencing, prosecutors said they also had evidence that Broidy had covertly lobbied “to influence US policy towards Qatar” and to further his efforts “to obtain business from” the UAE. That latter assertion was a reference to a $200m deal that Broidy sealed between a defence contractor he owned, Circinus LLC, and the UAE government.

The report uncovers the covert funding by Broidy of two conferences in 2017 that attacked Qatar for allegedly backing Islamic extremists, one by the Hudson Institute and the other by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, paying prominent figures to speak at the events. 

Intelligence Online further states that then-Trump strategist Stevem Bannon and ex-Secretary of Defence Robert Gates each received $100,000, while former CIA director whilst retired General David Petraeus received $50,000. A document obtained by prosecutors listed the Emirati and Saudi governments as supporters of Broidy’s lobbying campaign, as reported by the  New York Times.

David Reaboi’s anti-Qatar streak 

In addition to his publications at Claremont Institute, Reaboi is the president of “Strategic Improvisation”, a PR firm “focused on clients in the national security world”, and writes for publications such as The Federalist, the Claremont Review of Books, Newsweek, The Washington Times, and Human Events.

Alongside several of his colleagues, Reaboi has published a continuous stream of anti-Qatari articles for the SSG website and conservative news outlets, including stories entitled “Is Qatar really an ally?” and “How Qatar Targets America’s Allies in the New Middle East” (“Why the alliance between the US, Israel and Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE is both important and in very healthy shape thanks to Donald Trump”).

In another article, the senior analyst defended Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying he “was never a journalist; he was a highly-partisan operative who worked with a handler to publish propaganda at the behest of Qatar. He was, in other words, an agent of influence”.

Reaboi further published his book “Qatar’s Shadow War” in 2021, shortly before the SSG shut down. According to Intelligence Online, the book, which they claim “was almost surely a key deliverable requested by the SSG’s secret donors”, accused Doha of secretly funding think tanks and media outlets in order “to shape the information battlefield”.

The same accusation was recently uncovered against the UAE in American policy circles. 

The same editorial line?

As per the Intelligence Online report, the SSG’s “intellectual” output lines up perfectly with  Broidy’s broad” political and financial agenda in the Middle East.” 

In 2019, Broidy filed a lawsuit against three reportedly paid advocates for Qatar, accusing them of disseminating his hacked emails to journalists at esteemed US newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The lawsuit remains ongoing. 

Subsequently, Reaboi and others at the SSG think tank have lended their frequent support to Broidy, in promoting his lawsuit through their  publications and tweets. One such example is when Reaboi wrote an article for The Federalist, titled “Qatar Hacking Scandal Illustrates How U.S. Media Megaphones Foreign Agitprop.” “Broidy’s lawsuit is a story about crooked American lobbyists for Qatari interests,” said the article. 

The former co-founder of SSG  was further cited in a series of articles called “The State of Qatar’s Hack of Our Democracies”, which were published in a London-based outlet called The Investigative Journal.

All of the stories were authored by the conservative American journalist- consultant Richard Miniter, and had titles similar to, “Qatar’s Prominent Cyber Victims in North America: The Elliott Broidy Story”. Reaboi’s contribution to the series was a quote stating, “There are many reasons for Qatar to penetrate the means of communications of known people, including silencing critics”.

It was soon uncovered that the UAE was a secret financier of the Investigative Journal, having bought and paid for the stories within the series about the “ secret and illegal influence peddling by Qatar.”

The Journal was later closed down upon its funding sources being reported by The Guardian  among other outlets. 

As per Intelligence Online, the subpoena exhorts Reaboi to turn over all documents regarding “Broidy’s advocacy, lobbying, or consulting efforts relating to the State of Qatar or any Qatar-based entity;” regarding “payments, distributions, donations, or disbursements that were made to you on behalf of, received from, or made by Broidy or Circinus Worldwide, their staff, their agents, their representatives, or any individuals acting on their behalf;” and regarding “documents and communications relating to financial transactions or exchanges of anything of value, whether direct or indirect, between you – or any entity that you own or are affiliated with – and Broidy, Circinus Worldwide, or any Broidy-affiliated entity.”

Reaboi has since been fighting the subpoena, most recently in a filing submitted by his attorney on 15 August. 

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