National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s past affiliation with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has created fresh concerns after research conducted by Disobedient Media revealed that the British think tank has taken funding from multiple governments in the Middle East and organizations tied to George Soros. McMaster’s former position with the IISS indicates a potential conflict of interest given the think tanks’ financial ties to sponsors who are anti-American and in some cases, states sponsors of terrorism.
I. The IISS Has Financial Ties To Middle Eastern States And Soros-Connected Organizations
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is a UK-based think tank with strong establishment ties which was credited by former U.S. Ambassador Raymond Leonard Garthoff in his memoirs as being a driving force in creating “intellectual structures for managing the Cold War.” The IISS has famously boasted that it “owes no allegiance to any government, or to any political or other organization” and produces research cited and utilized by a vast number of groups internationally. But on December 6th, 2016, The Guardian reported that documents published by the organization Bahrain Watch showed that the IISS received more than £25 million in funding from the Bahraini royal family. The leaked documents also revealed that the IISS and Bahrain’s rulers specifically agreed to keep the latter’s funding secret, which would be used to pay for an IISS office in the country as well as annual conferences on Middle East politics attended by heads of state and other powerful figures in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. The Middle East Eye also published research indicating that in 2015 this funding accounted for over half the IISS’ total income during that period.
A reference of the IISS’ Sources of Funding Statement page reveals that the think tank also receives funds from a shocking list of special interest groups, including the Carnegie Corporation New York, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Executive Affairs Authority – Abu Dhabi, The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), the embassies of China, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the High Commission for Pakistan. The IISS also accepted donations from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ploughshares Fund.
The Ploughshares Fund is financed by the Open Society Foundation. A May 5, 2016 article by the New York Times revealed that the Ploughshares Fund was a major player in efforts to sell the Iranian nuclear deal to the American public. The deal has been generally criticized as a foreign policy failure, resulted in the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran without any concessions in return and has failed to prevent Iran from continuing to illegally test long range ICBM missiles in violation of both the deal and international sanctions.
George Soros has faced backlash internationally in Eastern Europe, after his organizations were banned from Hungary and placed under audit in Macedonia amid accusations that he was meddling in the countries’ political processes and improperly seeking to influence public opinion. Disobedient Media, The New York Times and The Washington Times have all highlighted Soros’ financial support for anti-democracy movements in the United States who seek to undermine democratic institutions and pursue regime change. The billionaire investor’s financial involvement with the IISS seriously undermines their claims of independence already on shaky ground after the revelations from The Guardian and Bahrain Watch.
II. H.R. McMaster Served As Consulting Senior Fellow At The IISS
H.R. McMaster was appointed to the position of National Security Advisor after the resignation of Michael Flynn in February 2017. McMaster was widely praised by the media after he steered away from Flynn’s hardline stance towards terrorism, stating that the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was “not helpful.” Although McMaster has extensive counterinsurgency experience from his years in Iraq, his legacy there has been criticized by the Asia Times as having utilized vast amounts of U.S. funds and resources only to leave behind an Iraqi government that was brittle and at risk of collapse, while failing to quell sectarian tensions that have allowed Iran to leverage interests throughout the Middle East and expand their influence through Hamas and Hezbollah.
From September 2006 to February 2017, H.R. McMaster served at the IISS as a Consulting Senior Fellow. The IISS’ website indicates that McMaster focused on topics relating to conflict and conflict prevention, development and security, civil-military relations and military history. McMaster’s close, longstanding ties to the IISS create concerns about conflicts of interest given the think tank’s financial connections to multiple foreign states across the Middle East and Asia, as well as figures like George Soros who are actively seeking to resist the administration of Donald Trump after the latter’s defeat of Soros-supported candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
McMaster’s affiliation with an organization that has taken money not only from groups who pushed the harmful and counterproductive Iran nuclear deal, but states who media reports and releases from Wikileaks have shown to be sponsors of terrorism in both the Middle East and the West raise serious questions given the many years McMaster spent with the IISS. The IISS’ connection to such parties will no doubt continue to dog the Lieutenant General going forward given his central role in advising President Donald Trump during the U.S.’s controversial April 6th missile strike in Syria and his belligerent rhetoric directed at the Russian Federation over their support for Bashar al-Assad.