Friday, April 29, 2022

Think Tank MEI Promoting Middle East Objectives Without Disclosing Conflicts of Interest

Here is more from Dr. Ben Freeman, a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft:

Firas Maksad of the Middle East Institute...dubbed the [US's abandoning of the Middle East] a “crisis” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March calling on Biden to renew the U.S.’s “commitment to regional defense by publicly affirming a strategic alliance” with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or both countries will continue to cozy up to Beijing and Moscow.

Maksad’s MEI colleagues, Bilal Saab and Karen Young, kept up the drumbeat in early April with a Foreign Policy article arguing for a new U.S. “strategic defense framework with the Gulf Arab states.” The article followed an MEI policy memo accusing the United States of being supportive of Iran’s expansionism which, amongst other issues, purportedly pushed Saudi Arabia and the UAE closer to China and Russia.

Noticeably absent from these documents and media appearances clamoring for more U.S. military entanglements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE is any acknowledgement that MEI’s biggest funders are the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In fact, in 2017, leaked emails revealed a $20 million “secret” grant from the UAE to MEI.

Maksad also has personal ties to Saudi and Emirati money as Responsible Statecraft has previously pointed out. Maksad is the Managing Director of Global Policy Associates which, prior to RS’s  reporting, listed Teneo as one of the firms’ clients. Teneo, incidentally, is registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to represent multiple Saudi and Emirati interests.


Among other things, Dr. Freeman notes that media outlets have an obligation to acknowledge these potential conflicts of interest.