Inside the companies stirring up Middle East division in Congress and Parliament

Thomas Charles was the 'foreign principal' of an anti-UAE lobbying campaign

Thomas Charles describes himself as editor-in-chief of Urban Dandy, a "big ideas", left-leaning blog focused on London.

Wearing another hat he runs Tactics Institute, which launches geo-political research reports and holds events in the British parliament and elsewhere.

It is one of a series outfits, including the New York Centre for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) and International United Nations Watch, that seek to influence US Congressmen, European MEPs and British parliamentarians on Middle East-focused issues.

At root small companies with no permanent registered employees are leveraging the platforms of think tank activity and the public institutions to promote regional divisions. Their ultimate product is highly partisan analysis and messages that are then recycled by backbench and left-wing political figures.

International United Nations Watch this week organised a letter from 30 members of the US House of Representatives led by Raul Grijalva on human-trafficking trends in the Middle East.

International United Nations Watch is in fact a company with a registered address in Scotland. It has one director, Yousef Aljamal, a Swedish citizen who lives in Turkey but is using an address in Hillhead, Glasgow.

It has also staged meetings at the UN offices in Geneva and organised similar letters from Belgian and Swedish members of parliament.

On its Twitter page, the body said it is dedicated to the work of the UN: "Independent international #NGO based in Scotland that seeks to monitor the #UN's work," it said.

Mr Aljamal describes himself as working on a PhD in International Relations at Sekarya University in Turkey and has a track record of activism on the Palestinian cause and issues affecting the residents of Gaza.

While associated with the NYCFPA, Mr Charles was named on a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing as the "foreign principal" of its engagement of a US lobbyist firm to engage with members of Congress.

The lobbyist firm listed Mr Charles and the NYCFPA as the client and gave Mr Charles' address in London. It described the client as a London-based NGO and the sum involved was $110,000.

The lobbyist Robert Lewis certified that his client was free of any foreign government links. Yet among the tasks it was contracted to deliver were four motions in the US Congress that "condemned" the UAE.

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As far as the organisation is concerned we still deal with Thomas Charles but we are completely independent now with an independent board all based here in the United States

The same address is listed by Mr Charles as a director of the limited company Tactics for Security and Counter-Terrorism Ltd. In its just-filed accounts it does not appear to have the resources to match the scale of payments to Mr Lewis' lobbyists.

The accounts were filed on December 14 and in the year ended February 29, 2020, it had assets of £33,600 and had payments to creditors falling due within 12 months of £42,000.

Mr Charles did not respond to a request for comment on the US contract.

The current director Justin Thomas Russell said he had been brought onboard to relaunch the NYCFPA earlier this year and that Mr Charles was no longer playing a role. In fact, he said he had never met the London-based founder.

"As far as the organisation is concerned we still deal with Thomas Charles but we are completely independent now with an independent board all based here in the United States,” Mr Russell said. “We still have a relationship with the folks in London but it’s very peripheral.”

A self-described cigar-chomping guerrilla, Mr Russell said that since April the NYCFPC had "gained our independence as a US operation".

"We are almost a reinvention of an organisation that started previously to 2020," he added. “The stuff that they did we still cite as products of the organisation but the leadership, direction and mission of the organisation has changed.

"We are not a lobbying organisation, we are non-profit."

It has opened a new office in Washington DC and Mr Russell said it is rebuilding its website.

The demise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in the UK was the subject of Mr Charles' latest post on Urban Dandy.

He offered a defence of the hard-Left leader's stance on anti-Semitism, which last month saw Mr Corbyn suspended from the party and losing the whip.

In October the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found the party was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

A company Urban Dandy Ltd. where Mr Charles is registered as a director is now subject to winding up after its accounts fell due in April 2020 but have not been filed.

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