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UAE at Heart of US Regional Strategy in Persian Gulf

Based on repeated claims by US and Israeli officials, the plan to normalize relations with the Tel Aviv regime was supposed to continue rapidly and involve a large majority of the Arab world, however only UAE and Bahrain have normalized relations with Israel. No other Arab government has got involved in the normalization process, and so far it has come to an end, despite all the publicity that had been done in regard of it. This can be clearly seen from Trump’s appeal to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in order to persuade other Arab countries to normalize relations with the Israeli regime.

Recently, in a statement, the White House announced Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his consultations on the reconciliation of West Asian countries with the Israeli regime. According to the Israeli media network “Arutz Sheva” (also known as Israel National News), the US President called the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and asked him to persuade other countries in the West Asian region to join the UAE and Bahrain in signing an agreement with the Zionist regime. In addition to the White House’s confession on being dishonest about Arab states’ embracing the idea of normalizing relations with Israel, we can see that Bahrain joined the propaganda campaign whilst extreme pressure was initiated upon it, and from another perspective it is also important to note that the message the US is trying to convey is shifting the centrality of regional policy towards cooperation with the UAE.

During the second half of the twentieth century, with the presence of the United States in the region after the withdrawal of British forces, US governments have maintained close ties with the Saudi dynasty and have had unwavering support for the dynasty’s continued rule over the peninsula due to its vast oil reserves and the kingdom’s potential cultural position amongst the Arab world and Islamic countries. With the Islamic Revolution in Iran taking place and the change in security matters in the region to the detriment of the Israeli regime and the interests of the usurpers in the region, forming alliance with Saudi Arabia in order to confront the expanding revolutionary ideology of the Shiite Islamic movement also increased. During this period, in addition to security cooperation in the field of developing anti-Shiite Takfiri ideology for geopolitical interests, especially in Afghanistan and some security related regions in Iran, a large amount of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves was spent on purchasing modern military equipment from the United States, which resulted in the establishment of military cooperation and extensive security relations between the US and the Saudis. But despite the two countries having enjoyed the benefits of close cooperation over the decades, these relations now seem to be ending. At the same time the United States is considering to find a suitable alternative for the Saudis in advancing their regional objectives, namely the UAE.

In this regard, the issue of reducing US dependence on Saudi oil, the east-turning approach of US foreign policy strategy to focus on China, as well as the Saudis’ inconsistencies with some of the White House’s plans have had a significant impact.

In this respect, after OPEC declined to accompany the plan to reduce oil production following the fall in oil prices, Foreign Policy news publication reported that US Republican legislators are extremely annoyed with Saudi Arabia over recent developments in the oil field.

“This isn’t how friends behave toward other friends,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican leading the charge on the legislation, told Foreign Policy. “They grossly miscalculated the US response to this.”

The strategic coalition between Washington and Riyadh is fading, and the process to rebuild trust requires a long time, he added.

“The only thing holding the relationship together now is Trump—he has a peculiar affinity for Saudi Arabia,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert on Saudi Arabia and 30-year CIA veteran who is the director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution.

These remarks are not a short-term threat, but basically an expression of the reality of the prospects concerning Riyadh-Washington relations. This can be seen in the United States’ inaction during the attack on the Saudi oil facilities last autumn, in which Riyadh had high hopes for the support of the White House. As a matter of fact, since the issue of the normalization agreement, critics concerning the White House’s unequivocal support for the Saudis has been increasing not only among the Democrats but even among the Republicans. But Riyadh’s inconsistencies regarding Trump’s demand for the quick support of the normalization issue has caused this historic bond to fall apart.

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, had pressured Mohammed bin Salman to attend the signing ceremony of the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE, but Riyadh’s official stance was to continue supporting King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative proposed in 2002, despite Trump’s expectation that advancing the normalization process would benefit him in the upcoming presidential election next month, according to a report published on Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper website. This issue has seriously infuriated Trump.

In the meantime, the possibility of replacing the UAE as the main ally of the US in the region are not low. Basically, as Saudi Arabia’s economy weakens due to the fall in oil prices, other Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar will ensure to secure the interests of US arms manufacturers within the region. Recently, Qatar and the United States reaffirmed the implementation of a $25 billion military contract between the two sides.

More importantly, the United States, which is deeply concerned about China’s efforts in finding strategic allies with a geopolitical position in the region in order to advance its economic ambitions, considers Abu Dhabi’s Turning-East strategy as a dangerous step that must be dealt with. In this regard, after a recent official letter from Xi Jinping to Mohammed bin Zayed, President Xi Jinping stated that he would like strategic relations strengthened between the two countries, in an analysis published by the Middle East Eye website, Andreas Craig wrote: The Middle East is literally in the middle of a conflict between two superpowers, the United States and China.

This analysis concludes that the UAE, a regional trading hub and major oil exporter to East Asia, is shifting towards China more rapidly compared to other Gulf states. Its grand trading strategy to control access to major offshore bases in the Indian Ocean plus the African and the Red Sea branches has made Abu Dhabi an important partner for Beijing. However, the analyst concludes that if Trump is to be in the White House for another four years, the UAE will be under tremendous pressure. But undoubtedly, the UAE’s distancing from Beijing should be accompanied by exceptional incentives, which can be seen in announcing preparations for the sale of the ultra-advanced F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi.

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