Follow us on social


NYT fails to note critic of new Middle East watchdog is funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE

The new group, Democracy for the Arab World Now, intends to carry on Jamal Khashoggi’s legacy of pushing for reform in the region.

Reporting | Middle East

The New York Times reported on Tuesday about the existence of a new organization dedicated to promoting human rights and democracy in the Arab world and quoted a critic without disclosing that the critic’s affiliated organization is funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two authoritarian Gulf countries accused of gross human rights abuses and targets of the new group. 

The new organization, Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, is the brainchild of the late Jamal Khasshogi, a Saudi dissident and journalist who was murdered by Saudi agents — on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the CIA — at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. 

According to the Times, DAWN will seek to carry out Khashoggi’s vision as a hybrid think-tank and human rights watchdog organization that will, among other products, publish articles in both English and Arabic by dissidents and other experts and activists that criticize the authoritarian methods carried out by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others. 

The Times went on to quote Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, who said he didn’t think DAWN would have an impact because many would rather focus on U.S. economic and military relationships with Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt rather than the malfeasance of their autocratic regimes.

“If the primary audience is going to be American policymakers, they are going to come up against the national interest and fixed alliances,” Ibish said, adding, “Nobody defends the U.S. relationship with these countries as a values-based confluence of Western democracy.” 

A Saudi or Emirati official couldn’t have said it any better: don’t focus on the bad stuff we’re doing, particularly with the military gear you sell us, instead think about all the money you’ll be making. 

And it just so happens that Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2015 offered up millions in seed money to establish the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington — Ibish’s employer. AGSIW also lists Saudi state owned oil giant Aramco and American defense industry giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as “corporate members.” Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have benefited financially from the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen, a war that is responsible for the world’s largest ongoing humanitarian crisis.

In its 2019 annual report, AGSIW lists also Lockheed, Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National, the U.S.-UAE Business Council, and the American Chambers of Congress in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in its “Grants and Partnerships” section. 

The Times report made no mention of AGSIW’s sources of funding or the conflicts of interest in Ibish’s criticism of DAWN (one of Ibish’s previous employers, the American Task Force on Palestine, also received funding from the UAE).

Ben Freeman, Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, lamented that it’s common that scholars from Saudi and UAE-funded think tanks offer commentary on Middle East issues without disclosing these potential conflicts of interest, and said readers have the right to know the biases of these expert opinions.

“It strains credibility to believe someone working at an organization founded with Saudi and UAE government money can provide truly objective insights about those countries,” Freeman told Responsible Statecraft. “It's incumbent on anyone quoting them to mention these potential conflicts of interest and provide their readers with the full context behind comments like this.” 

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo: pio3 /
Reporting | Middle East
Retro Israel panel defies 'America First' foreign policy

National Conservatism conference, Washington, D.C., July 9, 2024. (Kelley Vlahos)

Retro Israel panel defies 'America First' foreign policy

Washington Politics

The National Conservatism Conference, which professes to represent a new conservatism to “understand that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation, to the principle of national independence, and to the revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing,” has a foreign policy problem.

On the one hand the organizers and proponents rail against a globalism dominated by supranational neo-liberal institutions, and progressive litmus tests and ideas, but on the other they want borderless solidarity with other like minded nationalists across the globe. And for some reason this precludes them from talking too much about the biggest U.S. foreign policy issue in years, the Ukraine war, for which there is no panel scheduled over the course of the event, Monday through today.

keep readingShow less
The perils of a US arms stockpile in Taiwan

Soldiers drive their military vehicles past Taiwan flags during an army exercise in Hsinchu, central Taiwan January 27, 2010. The U.S. and China are currently at odds over an arms sales to Taiwan, according to local media. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS)

The perils of a US arms stockpile in Taiwan


Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to advance the FY2025 NDAA to the Senate floor, which includes a significant provision that would establish a regional contingency stockpile of U.S. weapons in Taiwan.

This stockpile could mirror the shortcomings observed in the War Reserve Stockpile Allies-Israel (WRSA-I) program, and could have equally disastrous consequences for accountability. The Israel-based reserve’s lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability mechanisms serves as a cautionary tale for why such a model should not be replicated in Taiwan.

keep readingShow less
NATO’s 75th birthday party: All balloons, no brass tacks

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reacts after the ceremonial first pitch throw to celebrate "NATO day" before the start of the game between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2024. REUTERS/Yves Herman

NATO’s 75th birthday party: All balloons, no brass tacks


The heads of state and government of all 32 NATO allies will meet at a summit in Washington, July 9-11, to celebrate the Alliance’s 75th birthday. It was scheduled more than a year ago, but, as the date has approached, it increasingly seems like a bad idea.

Of course, nobody could have foreseen current concerns in the American media and political class of President Joe Biden’s travails stemming from his poor debate performance with Donald Trump on June 27. Unfortunately, that story risks squeezing the summit’s achievements off page one.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis