The Abraham Accords, signed in 2020, marked a significant step in the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The accords have also led to an increase in weapons sales in the region, particularly from Israel to the signatories of the agreement. Recently, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on “Expanding the Abraham Accords,” which featured witnesses with connections and financial ties to the UAE and Bahrain.
Hearing on influence
Retired General Joseph L. Votel, a distinguished fellow at the Middle East Institute (MEI), which receives funding from the UAE and Bahrain, was one of the witnesses. Votel initially failed to disclose this information in his Truth in Testimony disclosure, but later updated it to include grants or donations that could be tangentially related to the hearing.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and current Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Daniel B. Shapiro, another witness, claimed that he was representing himself and not an institution receiving payments originating with a foreign government related to the hearing. However, the Atlantic Council, like MEI, also counts the UAE and Bahrain among its top funders.
The third witness, Robert Greenway, president and CEO of the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, stated that his organization had received no payment originating with a foreign government related to the hearing.
However, the Institute does not disclose information about its funding, although a 2021 Axios article identified the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors in Washington as co-founders.
Conflicts of interest?
The hearing highlighted how Emirati and Bahraini funding has become pervasive at major foreign policy think tanks, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest. It also revealed the low standards for disclosures of potential conflicts of interest held by House committees and their witnesses. The issue comes at a time when the U.S. intelligence community is reportedly increasingly concerned about UAE meddling in U.S. politics. Some experts have criticized the witness lineup and their financial ties as examples of corruption that everyone in DC agrees to pretend isn’t corruption.
Overall, the hearing showcased the extent of UAE and Bahraini influence in Washington’s think tanks and the need for greater transparency in disclosures of potential conflicts of interest.
The Abraham Accords have important implications for Bahrain and the Middle East, and it is essential to ensure that any discussions related to the agreement are conducted in a fair and impartial manner.