US think-tank will no longer accept funds from UAE

Center for American Progress says funding ‘never impacted any CAP position’, adding it’s ‘just the right thing to do’.

Center for American Progress
Two CAP staffers were fired earlier this month after leaking an email exchange appearing to reflect improper influence by the UAE [Jacquelyn Martin/AP]

The Center for American Progress (CAP) says it will no longer accept funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), days after two staffers were reportedly fired for leaking an email exchange that suggested improper influence by Abu Dhabi over the Washington-based think-tank.

A CAP spokesperson told Al Jazeera on Friday that “funding never impacted any CAP position or policy” after it said it was parting ways with what it views to be anti-democratic governments across the globe.

“With a rising undemocratic tide around the world, and serious questions about which side of that struggle our own president stands on, it seemed clear that all Americans should take extra steps and leave no doubt where they stand,” the spokesperson said.

“This funding never impacted any CAP position or policy, but everybody here agrees it’s just the right thing to do.”

The move comes after the Intercept questioned whether CAP’s response to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was shaped by the think-tank’s ties to the UAE.

According to the Intercept, the UAE was one of the top donors to CAP, with Brian Katulis, a Gulf expert at CAP also helping organise UAE-sponsored trips for American think-tank experts.

Katulis also holds close ties with the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, it reported.

Otaiba is a well-known figure in the United States national security circles and has been described by some as “the most charming man in Washington”.

UAE-UK Lobbying: New report reveals secret meetings (2:52)

Embarrassing ties

According to the Politico, Otaiba played a key role in championing the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, and maintains “almost constant phone and email contact” with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

US intelligence authorities suspect MBS ordered Washington Post columnist Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Some US think-tanks have been embarrassed by their financial ties with the UAE, which brutally cracks down on dissent and has played a key role in the war in Yemen, running a network of torture prisons in so-called “liberated” parts of the country.

According to a previous investigation by the Intercept, the Center for New American Security, an influential national security think-think, charged the UAE embassy $250,000 for a paper on the legal regime governing the export of military-grade drones.

The paper was signed by Michele Flournoy, who served as a senior Pentagon official under President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to be named by Hillary Clinton as her secretary of defence should she have won the 2016 presidential election. 

Source: Al Jazeera