Atlantic Council works as lobbyist for Gulf Nations


Think tanks like the Atlantic Council have largely skirted foreign lobbying regulations, prompting a growing group of watchdogs and lawmakers to urge legislation to require them to disclose their activities on behalf of foreigners to the Justice Department, the American Free Beacon in a report claimed.

It said, “the Atlantic Council last month [October 2022] organized a junket last month for senior congressional staffers and officials in an oppressive Gulf monarchy—the United Arab Emirates—the latest example of the Beltway think tank peddling influence for one of its foreign donors”.

According to records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, the Atlantic Council shelled out US$45,000 to host 10 House and Senate staffers in Abu Dhabi from October 1 to October 8. Think tank officials organized a series of briefings with Emirati officials and business leaders to tout the Arab country’s “impressive” green energy industry and to push for a stronger US-UAE relationship, according to an itinerary of the trip. They also convened briefings with two advisers to White House climate czar John Kerry to discuss “what the Administration is doing on international collaboration in climate change efforts, particularly with the UAE”, the itinerary reads.

The United Arab Emirates has a documented record of human rights abuses, including “torture in detention; arbitrary arrest and detention [and] undue restrictions on free expression and the press”, according to the State Department. Human rights groups have accused UAE-backed forces of committing torture and sexual assault against detainees in Yemen. It is unclear whether the junket gave Americans the opportunity to press their Emirati hosts on these issues.

As foreign governments have ramped up their giving to Beltway think tanks, the junket shows the sorts of things they are getting for their donations: access, on their own turf, to influential Beltway insiders who have the ears of some of the country’s most powerful lawmakers.

The Atlantic Council invited a mix of Democrat and Republican staffers on House and Senate committees that oversee energy, climate, and appropriations issues and “play an instrumental role in driving American energy policy and international engagement”, according to an invitation sent to congressional aides. The aim of the trip, according to the Atlantic Council, was “to strengthen the US-UAE energy relationship” and provide an “opportunity to learn more about the impressive advancement in energy of one of our key allies in the Gulf”.

The UAE has touted its commitment to reaching “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, though some foreign policy experts say the oil-rich Gulf nation is using the initiative as a public relations tool to curry favor in the West.

It’s the latest example of the Atlantic Council helping foreign governments influence American policymakers. The think tank has hosted events for the Turkish government, another foreign sponsor, since 2008. Sources familiar with that relationship have told the Free Beacon that Atlantic Council officials have removed panelists from think tank events at the behest of Turkish government officials. Two of the Atlantic Council’s scholars lobbied on behalf of the Russian gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2. And two board members helped the Atlantic Council land a lucrative sponsorship from Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company linked to Hunter Biden. The think tank took US$300,000 in Burisma donations even after State Department officials warned that the company was corrupt.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here