The United Arab Emirates on pace to contribute $20 million over the course of 2016 and 2017 to the Middle East Institute, one of Washington’s leading think tanks, according to a document obtained by The Intercept. The outsized contribution, which the UAE hoped to conceal, would allow the institute, according to the agreement, to “augment its scholar roster with world class experts in order to counter the more egregious misperceptions about the region, inform U.S. government policy makers, and convene regional leaders for discreet dialogue on pressing issues.”
MEI was founded in 1946 and has long been an influential player in Washington foreign policy circles. It serves as a platform for many of the U.S.’s most influential figures, allowing them to regularly appear on cable news, author papers, host private briefings and appear on panels in between stints in government.
Think tanks in Washington play a role perhaps as important as K Street, though with far less public insight into their activity or sources of funds. While the political establishment is gripped by the question of Russia’s influence on the 2016 elections, Washington itself is awash in money from both foreign corporations and foreign governments.
The whole Intercept piece, authored by Ryan Grim, is worth reading in its entirety. It has appearances by UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, think tanker Bilal Saab, UAE-based consultant Mac McClelland Jr., MEI President Wendy Chamberlain, Egyptian activist/scholar Ramy Yaacoub, Richar Mintz of The Harbour Group, Egyptian oligarch Naguib Sawiris, MEI board chairman Richard Clarke, Managing Director of Qorvis MSLGroup Michael Petruzzello, Barry Pavel of Atlantic Council, top lobbyist for Occidental Petroleum Ian Davis, former Center for a New American Security (CNAS) staffer Andrew Exum, think tank ECSSR, and many more.
Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on the UAE's influence at other think tanks in the United States.