United Arab Emirates

  • Religious Tensions Underlying the GCC Rift

    The speed at which poor relations between Qatar and several Gulf Co-operation Council states escalated was astonishing. It was only a few weeks ago that the Qatari Emir had been invited to Riyadh as part of the grand “Arab-Islamic-American Summit.” But in the space of a few days, the GCC has faced the largest set of challenges in its existence, with Saudi Arabia leading the charge to seemingly bring Qatar in line with what it sees as acceptable parameters for a GCC state to operate within, particularly in terms of the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and support for different militant groups. The rift, though, is revealing some interesting fault lines within the GCC. They’re not Sunni-Shia divides, but rather intra-Sunni divides. The irony is that Saudi and Qatar are actually far more on the same side in that divide than they are with anyone else in the GCC.

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  • A Widening Gulf

    Qatar crisis creates a headache for the United States

    Nearly two months in, the diplomatic crisis between the Arab Gulf states is growing ever more complicated. The July 16 Washington Post report that cites unnamed US intelligence officials as claiming that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) precipitated the diplomatic row with Qatar by hacking Qatari state-run news outlets and attributing false statements to the tiny emirate’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is, if true, troubling for several reasons.

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  • A Question for Washington: Who in the GCC Finances Terrorism?

    Journalists in Middle Eastern media outlets have been engaged in harsh mudslinging ever since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain (aka the quartet) severed diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar in June over Doha’s alleged support for the Islamic State (ISIS), al Qaeda, and Iranian-backed militias in numerous Arab states. Although some maintain that the move was long overdue, others argue that for Saudi Arabia to lead the charge was akin to the pot calling the kettle black and that Riyadh, more than any Arab capital, has promoted violent extremism across the Muslim world.

    Based on the words and actions of the American diplomatic establishment and the Pentagon since the Qatar crisis erupted, it is clear that Washington plans to continue working closely with all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in the struggle against terrorism. Nonetheless, the US government’s mixed messages on the Qatar crisis have illustrated the multifaceted and...

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  • Qatar Crisis Gets Mired in Mixed Messages

    Mixed messages from US President Donald J. Trump’s administration and an apparent belief in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that they have the ear of the White House have exacerbated the crisis between the United States’ Arab Gulf partners, according to Richard LeBaron, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    The crisis has exposed a rift between Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. While Trump has been critical of Qatar—he initially appeared to take credit for the Saudi blockade against a country that...

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  • Cyberattack in the Gulf


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  • Al Jazeera in the Eye of a Storm

    Al Jazeera, the first state-owned pan-Arab news network, means many different things to Middle Eastern governments and citizens. The Doha-headquartered network has provided Arabs with a style of reporting that was unheard of in the region before its launch twenty-two years ago. In 2011, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Arab Spring uprisings shaped history by promoting revolutionary change and human rights-focused narratives.

    In some Arabs’ eyes, Al Jazeera is a ‘watchdog for democracy’ that gives a ‘voice to the voiceless’, covering stories that are popular among large segments of Middle Eastern societies and unpopular with most Arab governments. Other Arabs...

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  • The Arab World’s Sorry State

    The Arab world is in a sorry state. The spat between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Qatar is but the latest symptom of an enduring serious rot in governance and a destructive power struggle in the wake of the Arab Spring. This situation is compounded by a lack of constructive dialogue on addressing the challenges that face most countries of the region.

    Qatar’s excommunication from the GCC is the latest schism to hit what has seemed, at least since 2011, to be a stable and unified bloc. On June 5, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off air, land, and sea transportation links. On the surface, it appeared that Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism was at the heart of the dispute. Certainly, US President Donald J. Trump’s tweet, sympathizing with the action taken against Qatar,
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  • How Will the Rift with Qatar Play Out?

    Early on Monday morning, a coordinated isolation of Qatar took place in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, and beyond. While it began with Bahrain severing ties, the power behind the moves was clearly Saudi Arabia, with strong Emirati backing. The isolation was rather complete: Riyadh, Manama, and Abu Dhabi requesting all Qatari nationals to depart their territories; a closing of land links between Qatar and Saudi Arabia; and an ending of flights, as well as a closing of airspace. Other countries like Egypt joined in, severing ties and closing its airspace and seaports to all Qatari vessels, though it is not clear if it was expelling Qatari nationals. The situation is unprecedented—but the outcome seems rather inevitable.

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  • Trump Navigates the Middle East

    US President Donald J. Trump signaled through his meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Washington on May 15 his administration’s commitment to working closely with the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Arab world and fight al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

    On May 19, Trump travels to Saudi Arabia where he will meet King Salman and up to twenty heads of state of Muslim-majority countries. MbZ’s visit to Washington has, in part, helped Trump prepare for his engagements in Saudi Arabia.

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  • Russia and the UAE: Friends with Benefits

    Russia’s deepening engagement in the Middle East is a positive development from the United Arab Emirates’ perspective. The Emiratis, with their unique relationship with the Kremlin, are trying to resolve regional security challenges that threaten their interests. More importantly, the Emiratis’ relationship with the Kremlin could help the UAE become an important interlocutor in efforts to defuse tensions between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The UAE’s strong relationship with Russia was on display when Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited Putin in the Kremlin on April 20. The two discussed crises in the Middle East as well as strengthening an already substantial relationship between their two countries....

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