14 January 2023 in Dossier The New Cold War, Lobbying


The long wave of the Brussels bribery scandal continues to fill the pages of the newspapers – and that is good, because public opinion finally has access to an opaque and dangerous galaxy, such as that of diplomatic lobbying, which has changed the EU’s stance on many international issues in recent decades, and has done so in a direction opposite to that of the EU countries and our pacifist attitude in planetary crises. Likewise, lobbying has also sabotaged many initiatives whose goal is the ecological salvation of the planet. In this context, it is crucial to present the heroes of lobbying: the figures who, thanks to the money they can spend, play a decisive role in influencing European politics – and Anwar Mohammed Gargash is certainly one of the most important among them.

What’s more: Anwar Gargash has for years been a central element in the mechanism of influence exercised by the UAE on the United States and the European Union – a complex mechanism that relies on the involvement of former EU diplomats on the boards of organisations that promote Emirati foreign policy and its strategic relations – all positions paid for princely. Its ‘Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy’ (AGDA) is a school of international diplomacy and a think-tank funded by the Abu Dhabi government, headed (until February 2022) by Bernardino León Gross, former Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean for the European Union, former UN Special Envoy to Libya, Secretary General to the Spanish Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs[1].

León was persuaded to take up the role in 2015 by a salary of £35,000, plus a housing allowance of around £130,000. A price worth its weight in gold, because León accepts the post from a country that supports a faction of the contenders in the Libyan civil war that its UN mission is trying to stop[2]. He was replaced by Nickolay Mladenov[3], who was Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Ban Ki-moon’s personal representative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority, as well as being UN Special Representative for Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)[4]: another influential diplomat who changes sides completely.

AGDA’s aim is to train new generations of diplomats and heads of government and to support the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC)[5]: by this is meant that AGDA wants to train foreign diplomats to follow the political line of the Emirates : on its board of directors sits Frenchman Jean-David Levitte, diplomatic advisor to Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy, Ambassador of France to the United States and France’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations[6]. And the line, according to Gargash, is a military attack on Iran[7], coordinated with the leaders of another think tank, the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs in Washington[8].

Gargash is a pivotal element in the strategy of US involvement in the attack on Qatar in the second half of the 1910s, carried out by Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, as he is on friendly terms with Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway[9], Donald Trump’s campaign manager and his political advisor, author of a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting the Clintons and leading Trump to support the embargo imposed on Qatar[10]. When the machinations of Conway and other Trump advisers (Elliott Broidy, George Nader), in business with Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan – de facto leader of the Emirates since 2014, since June 2022 officially President[11] – fail, Gargash has to hurry to deny any Emirati involvement in setting up a pressure group on Trump to get him to support the hard line against Qatar[12].

Before being a politician and lobbyist, Gargash established himself as an entrepreneur: until 2019 he is the head of Gargash Enterprises Llc Dubai, the country’s largest company in the car sales sector[13], importer of the most prestigious brands[14] and exclusive distributor of GAC Motor (China’s largest car manufacturer)[15]. Since May 2019, Gargash Enterprises has participated in the formation of the consortium of Car Dealers Business Group, established under the auspices of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce[16]. A position in which it advocates for the commercial development of the Chinese car industry in the European Union[17].

Bernardino León Gross, UN diplomat in Libya, who switched sides for a princely cash offer from the United Arab Emirates[18]

In December 2022, the Anwar Gargash Academy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE Space Agency with the aim of developing joint programmes, synergies, and organising seminars to which international speakers would be invited[19], increasing the Academy’s prestige and capacity for influence, as well as knowledge in the field of technology (also useful for military purposes) for the Gargash entourage. He officially entered politics in 2006 as Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, in February 2008 he was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for National Council Affairs. In February 2016 he was again Minister of State for Foreign Affairs[20].

His political action is mainly developed within the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, headed since 2006 by Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan[21]. After the 2016 government reshuffle, Gargash became the face of the Emirates’ humanitarian-military campaign in Yemen: started in 2015 as a project to assist the population of the island of Socotra, hit by two cyclones, the Emirati presence on the island soon transformed the face of the population centres and, above all, showed its true intentions[22]: In 2017, the construction of a military base capable of housing five thousand soldiers was completed, giving rise to a military occupation that ended, amidst vibrant local protests, only in mid-2018, when the Abu Dhabi soldiers were replaced by their Saudi counterparts, who were also engaged alongside the separatist STC (Southern Transitional Council) movement[23]. Coordinator of this initiative is Anwar Gargash, which leads to the annexation of the island, strategically important for the area, under the Emirati sphere of influence[24].

Gargash is removed from the post of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in February 2021, becoming Diplomatic Advisor to President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan[25], since this position allows him to have a direct channel with Washington: one of the key factors in the Yemen issue is the ties that Abu Dhabi and Gargash have with then-President Donald Trump – they welcome Trump’s firm intention to continue the US military intervention in the Yemen conflict, vetoing a resolution of contrary opinion from Congress[26]. On the regional front, proximity to Trump plays an important role in Gargash’s efforts to help normalise relations with Israel, in a process that culminates in 2020, with the signing of the Abrahamic Accords: in Washington, the leaders of the United States, Israel and the Arab Emirates sign the document that seals mutual recognition for the two Middle Eastern countries[27].

This gives Abu Dhabi the green light, from the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby[28], to sell arms to the Emirates, which in December 2020 will buy fifty F-35 jets, drones and light weapons for USD 23 billion[29]. The complex path leading to the signing of the Agreements[30] describes the Emirati spasmodic search for US support, identifying in Trump a well-disposed and manipulable partner[31], as shown by the attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, a circumstance denied by Gargash but confirmed by the embarrassing relations with Kellyanne Conway, Elliott Broidy and George Nader[32].

Then, due to the Ukrainian conflict, the position of the Emirates improved, as it pushed the European Union directly into the arms of the Persian Gulf countries: looking for partners able to replace Russia in the role of hydrocarbon suppliers, Brussels turned to Abu Dhabi and Doha. In December 2022, Gargash calls for a greater European commitment in the Middle East and Central Asia, branding mere supply requests as selfish (as indicated by the agreement concluded between Germany and Qatar: 2 million tonnes of gas per year to Germany for the next 15 years[33]) and demanding that declarations of commitment be transformed into actual bilateral cooperation.

17 November 2021: Gargash receives Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service[34]

Its goal is an agreement on defence and security, in the face of recurring Iranian threats[35], at a time when the Biden administration is proposing a substantial disengagement[36]. On opposite sides in the Yemeni conflict, Tehran and Abu Dhabi have been at loggerheads for years[37]. Israel is also supplying arms to the Emirates in an anti-Iranian key[38]. While the European Union has so far remained neutral, even as part of the attempt to soften the Israeli political line with regard to Palestine, in the face of the new situation on the energy market, the lobbying work exerted by Gargash on members of the European Parliament and many influential European politicians is beginning to bear fruit[39].

The Iranian issue is one of the central aspects of Gargash’s political work: in November 2021, the President’s advisor receives Enrique Mora, deputy secretary-general and political director of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and chief EU negotiator of the Iranian nuclear agreement (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action[40]), in Abu Dhabi to discuss the status of Tehran’s nuclear programme and European efforts to maintain balance and stability in the Middle East area[41]. One by one, some important European agencies are joining the new diplomatic line, first and foremost the EFD.

The European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) is a Brussels-based institute for policy studies that collaborates with the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN)[42]. The EFD’s positions are aligned with the Emirati view on foreign policy, religious fundamentalism and the Iranian question; the foundation has strong ties[43] with the far-right British think-tank[44] Henry Jackson Society[45] and the Quilliam Foundation, one of whose founders, Maajid Nawaz, is said to be close to Q-Anon’s conspiracy theories[46]. The EFD would also have close ties with the US neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD) close to Netanyahu, from which it receives substantial funding[47]. The UAE has long collaborated with the FDD[48].

Lorenzo Vidino is a former senior policy advisor at the EFD[49] and now runs the Program on Extremism at George Washington University[50] (where Anwar Gargash graduated in Political Science[51]). Here Vidino produces policy advisory material for the US government on combating extremist groups and Islamic political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. As part of this work, Vidino is received in 2017 by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah Bin Zayed[52]. The Emirates want to use academic cultural production to influence the view of fundamentalist Islamism and political Islam in the United States[53], a strategy in which Vidino plays an important role[54]: in 2015, Quiller Consultants – for years financed by the Emirati Foreign Ministry – invited Vidino[55] to a series of closed-door meetings with Anwar Gargash, organised to push journalists and academics to lash out against the Muslim Brotherhood, against Qatar, against Iran[56].

So many names that cross each other’s paths, but which mean only one thing: the UAE, as well as other rich countries, are able to decisively influence our decisions in social, political, commercial, economic, diplomatic and military matters. The opaque lobbying that reigns in Brussels and other European capitals has, over the past quarter century, succeeded in getting the United States and the European Union to change policy: an achievement achieved by bestowing gifts and appointments on certain key figures – mostly officials not elected by the people, but appointed by a colossal administrative machine that, by its very nature, conceals corruption and conflict of interest. We strongly believe in the union of Europeans, and we clamour for an end to this disgrace, and for clear and efficient rules. For everyone.


[1] https://www.worldpolicyconference.com/bernardino-leon-gross/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/un-libya-envoy-accepts-1000-a-day-job-from-backer-of-one-side-in-civil-war

[3] https://www.agda.ac.ae/about-agda/agda-management

[4] https://med.ispionline.it/speaker/nickolay-mladenov/

[5] https://www.agda.ac.ae/about-agda/who-we-are

[6] https://www.agda.ac.ae/about-agda/board-of-trustees/details/h.e.-jean-david-levitte

[7] https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/2022/07/15/uae-may-send-envoy-to-iran-dr-anwar-gargash-says/

[8] https://www.uae-embassy.org/news/uae-based-anwar-gargash-diplomatic-academy-and-johns-hopkins-university-school-advanced


[10] https://ibiworld.eu/en/if-abu-dhabi-believes-to-guide-donald-trump/

[11] https://www.treccani.it/magazine/atlante/geopolitica/Ritratto_Mohammed_Zayed.html

[12] https://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/397184-uae-made-no-effort-to-influence-us-election-anwar-gargash

[13] https://www.bloomberg.com/profile/company/0323611D:UHl

[14] https://gargashauto.ae/brands/ ; https://www.zoominfo.com/c/gargash-enterprises/400309916

[15] Gargash Enterprises LLC

[16] https://uae.yallamotor.com/car-news/dubai-car-dealers-business-group-elects-executive-committee-again-for-second-term-7725

[17] https://www.zawya.com/en/business/retail-and-consumer/chinese-cars-bad-reputation-for-poor-quality-is-undeserved-gargash-ceo-ma4rcfdk ; https://www.gac-motor.com/en/media/newsdetail/id/216.html

[18] https://www.elespanol.com/espana/20151106/77242276_0.html

[19] https://satelliteprome.com/news/uae-space-agency-signs-mou-with-anwar-gargash-diplomatic-academy/

[20] https://uaecabinet.ae/en/details/cabinet-members/his-excellency-dr-anwar-bin-mohammed-gargash

[21] https://uaecabinet.ae/en/details/cabinet-members/his-highness-sheikh-abdullah-bin-zayed-al-nahyan


[23] https://ibiworld.eu/en/socotra-the-last-wonderful-enchanted-island/

[24] https://www.avvenire.it/opinioni/pagine/il-paradiso-dello-yemen-conteso-da-emirati-e-arabia

[25] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-anwar-gargash-removed-foreign-affairs-minister-state

[26] https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/mena/anwar-gargash-says-donald-trump-s-yemen-veto-is-positive-signal-of-us-support-for-allies-1.849902

[27] https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/

[28] https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2018&id=D000046963 ; https://www.aipac.org/

[29]  https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/exclusive-biden-administration-proceeding-with-23-billion-weapon-sales-uae-2021-04-13/ ; https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/aipac-when-israel-lobbies-for-the-arabs-652346

[30] https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-trump-israel-emirates-idINKBN1E30AP


[32]  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-election-uae-idUSKCN1IN2RN ; https://www.voanews.com/a/uae-denies-trying-to-meddle-in-2016-us-election/4405574.html ; SE ABU DHABI PENSA DI “PILOTARE” DONALD TRUMP | IBI World Italia

[33] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/29/germany-agrees-15-year-liquid-gas-supply-deal-with-qatar

[34] https://www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302994277

[35] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/iran-threatens-to-strike-uae-in-case-of-us-attack-mee/2063005

[36] https://atalayar.com/en/content/emirates-calls-greater-european-engagement-gulf-we-need-see-action

[37] https://www.spglobal.com/commodityinsights/en/market-insights/latest-news/oil/100322-yemens-iranian-backed-houthis-threaten-oil-companies-in-uae-and-saudi-arabia

[38] https://www.iranintl.com/en/202210293220

[39] Le-Lobby-Anti-Qatar-1.pdf (ibiworld.eu), pages 71-72

[40] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/iran/jcpoa-restrictive-measures/

[41] https://www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302994277

[42] https://www.europeandemocracy.eu/about-us/

[43] https://www.europeandemocracy.eu/publication/a-guide-to-refuting-jihadism-critiquing-radical-islamist-claims-to-theological-authenticity/

[44] https://www.cage.ngo/revealed-home-office-outsourcing-surveillance-to-far-right-henry-jackson-society

[45] https://henryjacksonsociety.org/about-us/

[46] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/4/20/the-quilliam-foundation-has-closed-but-its-toxic-legacy-remains

[47] https://powerbase.info/images/0/06/PII_IsraelLobbyEUreport2016_Cronin_Mursak_Miller.pdf ; http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/262/262148044/262148044_201612_990.pdf

[48] https://thecordobafoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Spinwatch-UAE_lobby_report.pdf

[49] https://www.ispionline.it/en/node/10162

[50] https://extremism.gwu.edu/dr-lorenzo-vidino

[51] https://www.weforum.org/people/anwar-gargash

[52] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171109-exclusive-uae-works-to-defeat-voices-of-islamism-in-the-west-reveal-leaked-emails/

[53] https://ednews.net/en/news/world/211333-uae-tried-to-influence-trump-administration-to-designate-musl


[55] https://www.glistatigenerali.com/geopolitica_questione-islamica/la-penna-che-uccide-piu-della-spada/

[56] http://www.citizens-international.org/ci2017/2015/10/19/uae-paid-pr-firm-millions-to-brief-uk-journalists-on-qatar-brotherhood-attacks/

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