It seems damage control policy when CAP, one of the most prominent think-tanks in the United States reportedly announced that it no longer accepts funding from the “anti-democratic government” of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is the most significant ally of Saudi Arabia in a Saudi-led brutal war against impoverished Yemen.
The Washington-based Center for American Progress (CAP), a public policy research and advocacy organization with a declared goal of presenting a liberal viewpoint on economic and social issues, further said it sought to distinguish itself from the “authoritarian regimes” around the globe, the UAE included, with which US President Donald Trump’s administration has developed a close bond, The Guardian newspaper said in a report on Friday.
“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 Guardian quoted a CAP spokesperson as saying.
According to the report, CAP’s move came amid heightened public scrutiny over the financial support Washington-based thinktanks receive from authoritarian regimes. It also cited a detailed funding list the organization previously released showing that it had obtained between $500,000 and $1 million from the UAE embassy in the US capital.
The considerable Emirati-provided financial support, overseen by CAP’s foreign policy team, placed the Arab country in the upper echelon of the group’s donors, fueling speculation that the organization’s policies, in a way or another, are shaped by the wealthy donor, a conjecture strongly denied by the group.
“This funding never impacted any CAP position or policy, but everybody here agrees it’s just the right thing to do,” the spokesperson was further quoted as saying.
Earlier this month, The Intercept, an online news publication, claimed that CAP was shaping its policies under the influence of the UAE, alleging that the group fired two of its staffers suspected of being involved in leaking an email exchange that the pair thought reflected improper influence by the Emirati government within the organization.
CAP, however, rejected the claim, saying that the two staffers had not been fired “for leaking or whistle blowing.”
The report further suspected that the content of the email exchange revolved around an internal debate over how to frame CAP’s response to the brutal murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October last year. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the gruesome murder, which triggered a global outcry.
The report alleged that CAP’s initial draft statement denounced the killing and Saudi Arabia’s role in it, calling for “specific consequences.” However, the publically-released statement, purportedly under the influence of the UAE, which is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, dropped the specifics and confined itself with merely calling to “take additional steps to reassess” the Washington-Riyadh relationship.
CAP, however, strongly disputed the Intercept’s characterization of events.
Furthermore, The Guardian said in its Friday report that after reviewing a number of documents it came to the conclusion that CAP’s refusal to accept funding from the UAE started in June last year, well before the Saudi journo’s murder, adding that the decision, however, was finalized in December.
The Guardian went on to say that other top thinktanks in the US capital had also drawn criticism for receiving financial support from the Emirati government and maintaining close ties with the Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba, who allegedly acts as the go-between for Emirati money flowing into the US capital and who has cultivated a reputation as an influential figure inside capital Abu Dhabi.
Al-Otaiba is also known to have played a particularly key role in championing the Saudi crown prince.
The report added that the main source of criticism against leading American thinktanks is obtaining funding from the dictatorship regime in the UAE that launches crackdown on human rights while at the same time maintaining a close partnership with Saudi Arabia and the two regimes’ role in a nearly four-year-long brutal war against Yemen, creating a humanitarian crisis that experts believe could soon leave 14 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation.
The Saudi-led war has reportedly claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis since its onset in March 2015.
Critics have already called on the US thinktanks and universities to take a “democracy pledge” by rejecting both Saudi and Emirati money.
Furthermore, the Emirati government is known for its purposeful spending in the US capital, in pursuit of creating a friendly environment while pushing forward its own strategic goals, The Guardian added.