Follow us on social

Shutterstock_1299568381-scaled

Authors of think tank report praising Gulf arms sales have ties to defense industry

The Jewish Institute for National Security of America didn't disclose the potential for a serious conflict of interest.

Reporting | Military Industrial Complex

Last week, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, the ultra-hawkish think tank that promotes U.S.-Israel military relations, released its report on the 2020 Abraham Accords. 

The launch event featured laudatory remarks by the ambassadors to the United States of the three initial signatories – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel – all of which have shared an interest in shifting the regional balance of power against Iran.  

But another interest group was omnipresent in the report’s creation, albeit never publicly disclosed by JINSA.

Seven of the report’s eight authors enjoy close and presumably lucrative ties with the U.S. arms companies. Unsurprisingly, weapons sales were praised throughout the report and heralded as the linchpin of the Accords’ success.

“Crucial to the [Trump] administration’s success was its readiness to provide the Accords’ Arab participants with significant – and in some cases controversial – inducements in terms of their bilateral relations with the United States,” according to the report. “This included arms sales to the UAE…”

The report went on to criticize the Biden administration for limiting some arms sales and working to end the Saudi led war in Yemen that has pushed five million Yemenis to the brink of famine, left four million displaced, and made two-thirds of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance.

“Whether intended or not, early moves by the administration such as rescinding the terrorism designation against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, suspending the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, and denouncing former President Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran were all interpreted as signs that America’s commitments to defending its friends and deterring its adversaries in the Middle East were changing in ways that would be less conducive to advancing Arab-Israeli peace,” wrote the authors.

Neither the authors nor JINSA disclosed what may be a serious conflict of interest underlying the report’s policy prescriptions: all but one of the report’s authors are in the weapons business.

Case in point: JINSA lists the eight “policy project” members by their former military ranks or government roles. They include General Kevin Chilton, USAF (ret.), Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, USN (ret.), Ambassador Eric Edelman, Vice Admiral Mark Fox, USN (ret.), The Honorable Mary Beth Long, General Joseph Votel, USA (ret.), General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.), and Admiral Paul Zukunft, USCG (ret.).

Chilton sits on the board of Aerojet Rocketdyne, the only major U.S. independent supplier of solid-fuel rocket engines, and is president of Chilton & Associates LLC, “an aerospace, cyber and nuclear consulting company,” according to his Aerojet bio.

Aerojet provides the rocket booster for the THAAD missile defense system, a weapon exported to both the UAE and Israel and with deals in place for sales to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Donegan is a “Senior Adviser for National Security and Cyber Security” at Fairfax National Security Solutions, a company “Providing national security and cyber security advisory service to allied governments,” according to Donegan’s LinkedIn profile.

Fairfax National Security Solutions is a member of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council 

From 2016 until 2021, Fox served as Vice President of Customer Affairs at Huntington Ingalls, the largest naval shipbuilding firm in the United States.

Long is a principal and co-founder of Global Alliance Advisors, a firm that boasts about its “defense planning” work for foreign governments and “acquisition of defense weaponry.”  

Votel is a strategic advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation, a privately owned aerospace and weapons firm. The Corporation was a member of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council from 2019 until 2021

According to his LinkedIn profile, Wald is president of Wald International Strategy, where he helps “provide high level advice and strategy regarding International Security and Defense business development,” and Director and Vice Chairman of Federal Practice Advisory Partner at Deloitte Services, where he is “[r]esponsible for providing senior leadership in strategy and relationships with defense contractors and Department of Defense (DOD) program executives.”

Zukunft serves on the senior advisory board of Liquid Robotics, according to his LinkedIn profile. Liquid Robotics is an underwater drone manufacturer owned by Boeing, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world.

Boeing is also a member of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council and a major exporter of weapons to Israel and the UAE

JINSA did not respond to questions about whether it was aware of the potential conflicts of interest between the report’s promotion of weapons sales as a central pillar of the Abraham Accords and the extensive financial ties between the report’s authors and weapons firms or whether JINSA has any conflict of interest policy to address such situations.

Not everyone agrees that arms sales constitute a promising strategy for regional peace.

"If the normalization agreement model is to be a sustainable one, it must be able to stand on its own merits, not hinge on dumping even more deadly weaponry into the Middle East,” said Dylan Williams, senior vice president for policy and strategy at J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group. “There is a viable regional approach to achieving full normalization between Israel and its neighbors, but it rests on addressing Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, not on massive arms deals."

Given the wholesale embrace of the report at its launch, it appears that the biggest beneficiaries of the Abraham Accords are in lockstep with the weapons firms whose products, and profits, are central to the agreement, even if it perpetuates the war in Yemen and makes a reduction in tensions with Iran less likely. Those outcomes might not serve U.S. national security interests but, as the report’s endorsers and authors show, foreign and U.S. special interests in the weapons industry are enthusiastic about a flood of weapons to the Gulf.

Image: Baiploo / shutterstock.com
Reporting | Military Industrial Complex
We need a rational discussion about the Russian threat

Editorial credit: Karasev Viktor / Shutterstock.com

We need a rational discussion about the Russian threat

Europe

Understanding the intentions of a potential adversary is one of the most important yet most difficult challenges that any statesman faces. Underestimating a state’s aggressive intent can discourage the prudent defensive preparations necessary to deter a war, as happened in the prelude to World War II. Overestimating it can produce a cycle of increasingly threatening military measures that spirals into a conflict neither side has sought, as happened in the run up to World War I.

Finding the sweet spot between these poles is critical in dealing with Russian intentions toward NATO, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week at a summit meeting in Washington. Getting the balance between deterrence and diplomacy right is particularly important given Russia’s massive arsenal of nuclear weapons, which makes the stakes of any descent into direct conflict between Russia and NATO potentially existential.

keep readingShow less
Shutterstock_624917975-scaled-e1644615001666
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton shake hands at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington DC., September 28Th, 1994. (mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com).
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton shake hands at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington DC., September 28Th, 1994. (mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com).

Declassified docs: US knew Russia felt 'snookered' by NATO

QiOSK

This week at the NATO summit in Washington, alliance leaders are expected to sign a joint communique that declares that Ukraine is on an “irreversible” path to joining the alliance.

This decision is likely to be celebrated as a big step forward and a reflection of Western unity behind Ukraine, but a series of newly declassified documents show that the U.S. has known all along that NATO expansion over the last 30 years has posed a threat to Russia, and may have been a critical plank in Moscow's aggressive policies over that time, culminating in the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

keep readingShow less
Poll: Middle income Global South really likes China

Chinatown Street Market during Chinese New Year in Singapore. (Derek Teo/Shutterstock)

Poll: Middle income Global South really likes China

QiOSK

Middle-income countries of the Global South hold significantly more favorable views of China and its influence than those held by high-income countries of North America, Europe, and Northeast Asia, according to newly released findings of a poll of 34 countries released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, the latest in an annual series by the Pew Global Attitudes project, found that a median of 56% of respondents in 17 middle-income nations across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia held an overall “positive” view of China.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest