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UAE tops list of retired US officers working for foreign governments

More than half of the approvals for retired military officials to work with a foreign government were in the Emirates
The Pentagon in Washington DC on 3 March 2022.
The Pentagon in Washington DC, on 3 March 2022 (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates was the top country of employment for former US military officers doing paid work for foreign governments, according to a memo provided by the Department of Defence to members of Congress.

According to the Office of the Secretary of Defence, which sent a response to an inquiry from Senator Elizabeth Warren, there were 450 notifications of employment for foreign governments by retired military officers from 2012 through 2022. Of them, 12 were denied, 21 were administratively closed or withdrawn, and 11 are still pending approval from the Department of State and Defence.

The UAE took the top spot among 47 nations listed in the report, with more than half of the approvals for work being in the Emirates, either directly with the country or with contractors working on the government’s behalf.

The highest-ranking officer to work for the UAE in recent years was retired general, Jim Mattis, who served as former President Donald Trump's secretary of defence. Mattis served as a military advisor to the UAE in 2015 and returned to US service where he became Trump's Pentagon chief in 2017.

The salaries of those working for the UAE are murky. According to the Defence Department memo, only 35 retired officers disclosed their compensation. The remaining 185 are listed as “not available” or “not reported”, according to Responsible Statecraft.

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Middle East Eye contacted the UAE embassy in Washington for a response to this article but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

The UAE is a key US partner in the region, but Abu Dhabi has charted a more independent foreign policy course not always aligned with Washington.

Emirati companies have been sanctioned by Washington for helping Iran evade sanctions. The UAE has also moved closer, militarily, to China.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Beijing’s moves to build a secret military base in the UAE rattled the US. The US suspended talks with the UAE to acquire the F-35 fighter jet out of concerns Bejing would gain access to sensitive US technologies.

The UAE has also been accused of meddling in US politics. According to leaked US intelligence documents reported by the Washington Post, the UAE made illegal and legal attempts to sway US foreign policy in its favour by exploiting campaign finance contributions and the American lobbying industry.

Other Gulf monarchies feature prominently in the list.

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Admiral William Fallon, who served as the commander of US Central Command from 2007-2008,  appears on the list as part-owner of the Global Alliance Advisors consulting firm, which is expected to reap $23m from the government of Qatar for consulting services.

Retired officers are also seen playing the field. According to the memo, Major General Charles J Dunlap Jr received eight separate approvals to work for foreign governments, including three for the UAE, as well as Canada, Denmark, Israel, and Scotland. 

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Under US federal law, retired military personnel are barred from receiving anything of value from foreign governments that could compromise their sworn allegiance to the United States.

But in 1977, Congress allowed the Pentagon and State Department to issue waivers to the law. The new memo underscores the flourishing trade retirees have carved out serving foreign governments, particularly those with authoritarian governments.

The new revelations likely add to concerns about the extent to which foreign countries have expanded their influence over US institutions.

Retired US General John Allen stepped down as the president of the Brookings Institution think tank earlier this year, following the news that federal authorities believe he illegally lobbied for Qatar.

Billionaire and Trump ally Tom Barrack is currently on trial for charges of illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the UAE.

Middle East Eye contacted the US embassy of Saudi Arabia for a response to this article but didn't receive a reply by the time of publication.

Lawmakers from across the aisle have taken note. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed legislation that would put a four-year ban on major contractors hiring senior defence officials or any former employers who worked on their contracts while in government.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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