A new think tank funded entirely by UAE and Saudi sources makes its Capitol Hill debut Oct. 6 with a Senate hearing on the crisis in Yemen.
The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW) bills itself as an independent institution dedicated to covering the “social, economic, and political diversity of the Arab Gulf states.” Its executive vice president, former Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche, is slated to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
To its credit, the organization acknowledges that its sole sources of funding so far have been a think tank in Abu Dhabi and the Saudi Embassy in Washington, though it is looking for private sector support “to further diversify funding.” The organization received $2.6 million in contributions last year, according to tax records.
The donations are raising eyebrows following reports in The New York Times and elsewhere that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other countries are seeking to buy influence at prestigious US think thanks such as the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And a recent Huffington Post profile of UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba linked the diplomat to former US Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner, who serves as chairman of the Arab Gulf States Institute’s board. Wisner is now a paid consultant for Saudi lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs, although he’s only registered as working on Kosovo issues.The institute is the brainchild of Egyptian academic Abdel Monem Said Aly, a staunch defender of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Said Aly’s role as founding director and honorary chairman has raised concerns that the institute may shy away from criticizing the Gulf states’ autocratic governments and human rights abuses.
The homepage for the think tank can be found here. And here is a list of its board of directors.
Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the UAE heavily funding US think tanks.