A series of leaked emails have revealed the UAE’s frustration with Saudi Arabia’s leadership and the role which the emirate played in the rise of the kingdom’s young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
In one of the messages, stolen by hacking group GlobalLeaks, UAE’s Ambassador to Washington Yousef Otaiba wrote, “That whole country is (expletive) coo coo!,” referring to Saudi Arabia.
Otaiba is an influential player in world politics, who has attended Pentagon strategy meetings. The correspondence reveals that he believes the UAE has “bad history” with Saudi Arabia.
Writing to wife Abeer Shoukry in another email, he mocked the Saudi morality police’s decision to ban red roses on Valentine’s Day in 2008.
“They’re just so stupid… I’m sure Red roses are now being sold on the black market for extortionately high prices. They should’v banned heart-shaped chocolate as well,” the message read.
In another email to The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the Emirati ambassador wrote, “Abu Dhabi fought 200 years of wars with Saudi over Wahhabism. We have more bad history with Saudi than anyone.”
The exchanges betray a clear plan by the UAE to paint Saudi Arabia as a dysfunctional backwater and sell the Saudi crown prince to a skeptical Washington audience while the Saudi embassy remained mostly passive.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed regards himself as Mohammed bin Salman’s mentor and the two have been known to hold as many as three meetings a month.
According to the online news portal the Middle East Eye, Otaiba helped nurture high-level contacts between the young Saudi crown prince, known in diplomatic circles by his initials as MBS, and US President Donald Trump.
Saudi ministers were cut out of the loop when MBS (pictured below) and his brother Khaled flew in for a secret meeting with Trump just weeks before the US president’s visit to Riyadh, the report said.
“While there, MBS and Khaled hashed out and agreed upon the pageantry that was to come for the star-studded Riyadh visit by Trump,” MEE said.
The US president’s visit to Riyadh was rewarded with a record deal, worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion in military purchases that will take effect immediately.
In his message to Friedman, Otaiba asserted that MBS could lead to better relations and a time to get “the most results we can ever get out of Saudi.”
“With MBS, we see a genuine change. And that’s why we’re excited. We finally see hope there and we need it to succeed,” the envoy said.
Another message showed Otaiba writing to Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, “I don’t think we’ll ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country. Which is why engaging with them is so important and will yield the most results we can ever get out of Saudi.”