The UAE has paid tens of millions of dollars to expand its regional and international influence by buying positions and the loyalty of key figures, an Al Jazeera documentary has said.
Aired yesterday, “Men around Abu Dhabi” claimed the Emirates paid former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon and a number of leaders of the US Department of Defence in order to keep them on side.
The channel said that UAE paid $35 million to Tony Blair when he was the envoy for the Middle East Quartet. He was also paid as a consultant, leaked email published by the Sunday Telegraph revealed.
The UAE government paid about $53,000 per month to the Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon.
Last year, the UAE Diplomatic Academy, which is headed by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced that Leon, who served as UN envoy to Libya, will be assigned as its general manager.
At that time, media sources considered the news as a scandal that would undermine the credibility of the United Nations.
Abu Dhabi also paid $20 million in donations to the Middle East Institute in Washington, which is run by US General Anthony Zinni.
Zinni is an American general who once led US forces in the Middle East. After retiring, he served as a special envoy to the region. The US administration chose him and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Timothy Lenderking, as envoys to support the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis.
There is also James Mattis, the current US secretary of defence, who was previously hired by the UAE as a military adviser to develop its army and Robert Gates, the former US secretary of defence who attacked Qatar’s policies and Al Jazeera.
The documentary also revealed that Turki Aldakhil, the director of Al Arabiya TV channel, received more than $23 million in return for promoting Abu Dhabi’s agenda in the region.
On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed punitive measures on the small Gulf state accusing it of “supporting terrorism”. Doha strongly denied the claims.