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UAE meddled in American political system: US intelligence report

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with the UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (C) and his brother and Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) in Rabat, Morocco. (Via AFP)

A classified report by US intelligence officials details extensive efforts by the United Arab Emirates to manipulate the American political system, according to The Washington Post.

The report compiled by the National Intelligence Council, states that the UAE’s activities, for years, have included illegal and legal attempts to steer US foreign policy in ways favorable to the Arab autocracy, three people who read the report told the newspaper.

The UAE worked throughout multiple administrations to take advantage of vulnerabilities in the US government, including its reliance on campaign contributions, susceptibility to powerful lobbying firms and lax enforcement of disclosure laws intended to guard against interference by foreign governments, making it more closer to espionage, the people said.

It further stated that the UAE has spent over 154 million dollars since 2016 on lobbying and millions more on donations to US universities and think tanks, many of which create papers that support the Arab country's interests.

A US lawmaker said the large spending shows how foreign money can influence US democracy, saying it should serve as a wake-up call.

“A very clear red line needs to be established against the UAE playing in American politics,” said the lawmaker. “I’m not convinced we’ve ever raised this with the Emiratis at a high level.”

There is no prohibition in the United States on lobbyists donating money to political campaigns.

“The US intelligence community generally stays clear of anything that could be interpreted as studying American domestic politics,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served on the National Intelligence Council in the 1990s.

“Doing something like this on a friendly power is also unique. It’s a sign that the US intelligence community is willing to take on new challenges,” he added.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, said he is “proud of the UAE’s influence and good standing in the US.”

“It has been hard earned and well deserved. It is the product of decades of close UAE-US cooperation and effective diplomacy. It reflects common interests and shared values,” he said in a statement.

National security staff is aware of some of the activities that the report describes, but these operations have been able to be in effect because the federal government has not reformed foreign influence laws or provided more resources to the Justice Department, the newspaper reported.

Experts who spoke to the Post were surprised that the US government critically examined the activity of a close ally.

The UAE allegedly hired three former US intelligence and military officials to help the Arab nation survey “dissidents, politicians, journalists and US companies” by breaking into computers in the US and other countries.

The men admitted to giving the UAE advanced hacking technology in federal court last year. They gave up their security clearance and paid about $1.7 million to resolve criminal charges, but were not given prison time.

Earlier, Tom Barrack, an ally of former US president Donald Trump, was accused of conspiring with the UAE and providing inside information on the administration in a similar fashion. He was found not guilty last week.

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