The Intercept : UAE government is the most aggressive dictatorship in the region
THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES has one of the most repressive governments in the world. The Gulf dictatorship brutally cracks down on internal dissent and enables abusive conditions for its massive migrant labor force. It also plays a key role in the bloody war in Yemen, running a network of torture prisons in the “liberated” parts of the country.
That makes it all the more shocking that the UAE is so rarely criticized by leading U.S. think tanks, who not only ignore the Gulf dictatorship’s repression but give a privileged platform to its ambassador, Yousef Al-Otaiba. Otaiba is a deeply influential voice in U.S. foreign policy circles and is known in Washington for using his pocketbook to recruit allies.
Last month, hackers began releasing screenshots of emails from a Hotmail account that Otaiba used for official business. The hackers have sent the screenshots to various news websites, including The Intercept, the Daily Beast, Al Jazeera, and HuffPost. The hackers refer to themselves as “GlobalLeaks,” and have previously claimed to be affiliated with the website “DCLeaks.” The U.S. intelligence community has accused the Russia government of operating DCLeaks, and it’s unclear if the “GlobalLeaks” hackers are affiliated with Russia or just trying to give that impression. When asked about their motivations for an earlier Intercept story, the hackers responded in broken English by email that they were “not affiliated with any country or religion,” but added that their goal was to “make America great again.”
The latest batch of hacked emails passed to The Intercept and other outlets by “GlobalLeaks” provide insight into how Otaiba manages to find — or buy — so many friends in D.C. think tanks. The documents offer a glimpse into how a small, oil-rich monarchy can obtain such an outsized influence on U.S. foreign policy, showing the ambassador obtaining favors from Obama administration veterans — including Hillary Clinton’s presumptive Defense Secretary — and making large payments in return.
A $250,000 Invoice
One of the documents obtained by The Intercept was an invoice from the Center for New American Security, an influential national security think tank founded in 2007 by alumni from the Clinton administration. The invoice, dated July 12, 2016, billed the UAE embassy $250,000 for a paper on the legal regime governing the export of military-grade drones. It was signed by Michele Flournoy, a senior Pentagon official under President Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton was widely expected to name Flournoy as her secretary of defense. Flournoy co-founded CNAS and, in addition to outside work as a management consultant, currently, serves as the think tank’s CEO.