Two US citizens and one Emirati have been charged with acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018, without registering as lobbyists for a foreign government. One American, Thomas Joseph Barrack, is also charged with making false statements to investigators and obstruction of justice. Barrack was an advisor to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, raising questions about the UAE’s influence over his administration’s policy towards the oil-rich Gulf nation.
The larger issue, according to regional expert and CEO of Due Process International and Detained in Dubai, Radha Stirling, is the UAE’s influence in Washington overall. Stirling, who works on behalf of foreign nationals abused by the legal system in the United Arab Emirates, has documented endemic human rights violations and judicial malpractice in the country, and says the UAE continues to enjoy immunity for its actions. “Obviously, disclosure is important, both legally and ethically,” Stirling commented on the case, “But I am not particularly comfortable with the influence the UAE wields in Washington either way. There are at least 20 different firms registered as foreign agents working for the UAE, being paid tens of millions of dollars. UAE lobbyists have dealt with hundreds of congressional offices in the past 5 years, they coordinate with think tanks, fund institutes, and work with every major media outlet. All of that is disclosed, legal, and obviously impacts US policy in favour of the UAE. What we learn from this case is what we should already know: the UAE is relentless in trying to control Western policy in the Gulf, and will stop at nothing to obscure their own abuses, human rights violations and the despotic behaviour of the rulers.”
Stirling suggests that the case against Barrack, Matthew Grimes, and UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi is more concerned with ensuring that Emirati influence is reported, rather than monitored or checked. “Had Barrack and the others officially registered, their influence would have been the same, and no one would bat an eye. The indictment is over procedural formalities, not the matter of influence itself – which is the far more concerning issue. It is the Biden Administration, after all, that ultimately approved a $23 billion weapons sale to the UAE in April, was that decision made without pressure from the Emirates?”
Just one of the dozens of registered lobbyists for the UAE in Washington, Hagir Elawad & Associates, contacted 98 Senate offices and 132 Members of the House in one year alone, Stirling said, “Of course these lobbying efforts are ongoing, regardless of which administration is in power, and it preserves the UAE’s immunity from scrutiny or accountability year after year.
“We have recently learned that the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was allegedly assisted by the FBI in tracking down and capturing his fleeing daughter, Princess Latifa, in a violent raid on the American-flagged vessel Nostromo in 2018. This attack resulted in the abduction of an American citizen, who was detained, tortured, and threatened with death in custody; and there have been no consequences for the UAE over this gross breach of international law. We often characterise the Emirates’ lobbying efforts as merely image management; trying to present a positive picture of the UAE in the West; but what they are actually lobbying for is power and impunity, and they are getting it.”
Whether registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act or not, Stirling explained, the UAE’s influence in Washington is dangerous, “The Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi, was arrested in Minnesota in 2005 for sexually assaulting a hotel maid; but somehow the case went away. The same ruler is suspected of routinely breaking the Iran sanctions, but has never been seriously investigated, despite extensive documentation being presented to Congress. Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai carried out not one, not two, but seven abductions outside the UAE. The Emirates has allegedly engaged in illegal surveillance and hacking of Western nationals around the world; and this does not even cover the grave abuses committed against Americans and other Westerners inside the UAE. UK citizen, Lee Bradley Brown, for instance, was killed in Dubai police custody, and Emirati authorities have never cooperated with the investigation into his cause of death. By any objective standard, the UAE is a rogue state. There are British Members of Parliament who have called for sanctions against the Emirates, yet their agents and lobbyists continue to sway American and European policy. While, of course, registration of foreign agents is a serious legal issue, frankly it pales in comparison to the damaging impact of the UAE’s influence, in and of itself, on US policy in the Gulf.
Related resources and media:
(Nostromo Legal Actions Resource Centre For Media)
(Why does Dubai jail tourists? UAE lobbying has suppressed criminality for over a decade and it is US citizens who pay.)
- Due Process International
(NGO focussed on, lawful due process and fair trials, human rights and the accountability of criminals, corporations, law enforcement organisations and governments.)