Leaked documents showed UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a witness at a hearing on US-Qatari relations in the US Senate on Wednesday, raising doubts about his credibility.
The documents show Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Ilan Goldenberg who has testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa received a payment of $250,000 from the UAE's embassy in Washington.
The House subcommittee hearing on US-Qatar relations was called on Wednesday as per the request of its chairman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
CNAS, a Washington think tank, was paid to conduct a study on UAE missile technology in August 2016, according to an investigation by the Institute for Gulf Affairs, another Washington think tank, which posted the invoice document online.
The leaked emails show extensive contact through phone calls and emails between Goldenberg and Yousef Al Otaiba since last summer in order to fund the center and a trip for Goldenberg and his colleagues to the UAE.
The emails also show Goldenberg pushing business contracts for Lockheed Martin, while CNA's chief executive officer Michele Flournoy was lobbying Al Otaiba for Polaris to win a UAE government contract.
The August 2016 invoice was signed by Flournoy and submitted to Ambassador Al Otaiba to request payment for a study about UAE missile technology control regime. The study was given to Al Otaiba in February 2017 and distributed to UAE leadership, including Abu Dhabi's crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed, emails show.
The other two witnesses Senior Vice President at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Jonathan Schanzer, and Matthew Levitt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where both foundations also carry financial relations with the UAE.
Previous press reports on the matter show that the UAE ambassador Al Otaiba has exchanged emails with FDD regarding a one-day conference it organized in May.
While the autocratic governments' funding of American think-tanks is common knowledge, this case, in particular, is raising legal and ethical questions for congressional committees who rely on witnesses possibly compromised by foreign cash.
There is a direct link between foreign payments received by the American think tanks, and their analysis and conclusions. "They are willing to compromise their allegiances," said Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, Max Abrahams.
The House subcommittee hearing was called to examine the objectivity of the demands of the countries of siege, the role of the United States during the Gulf crisis and possible options for resolving, according to its chairman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
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