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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Affairs Policies Towards The United States of America (U.S.A.

) In a rather sympathetic overview of the United Arab Emirates' foreign policy, Peter Hellyer describes continuity as one of its key features (Hellyer 2001: 164). He says that The UAE's foreign policy is characterised by conciliation, a desire to defuse conflict, and a reluctance to act on impulse, all of which, he claims, are equally characteristic of the person who had (at the time Hellyer was writing) been in charge of foreign affairs in the UAE since its formation, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nayhan. However, when viewed from the perspective of United States it is clear that continuity and consistency are in no way defining features of the UAE's foreign policy. Indeed, the UAE's foreign policy undergoes fairly regular shifts that put it in clear opposition to earlier stated policy. Not that change is necessarily bad, but it is difficult to argue that consistency is a very notable feature of the UAE's foreign policy, unless it is the consistency with which fundamental shifts are made in the the UAE;s foreign policy. There are at least four distinct phases, each lasting about a decade in my analysis, in the UAE's foreign policy with regards to America. Each shift from one phase to another has been prompted by the UAE's relations with its larger neighbours, and each generally represents a closer alliance of interests with the USA, and the abandonment of some of the stated principles of the previous phase. The first phase, and one most hostile to the USA, lasted from the formation of the UAE in 1971 until the Iranian Revolution of 1979 (although it is arguable that it lasted until the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council and the assassination of Sadat in 1981). The second phase lasted through the 1980s until Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The third phase covers from 1991 to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and the fourth and final phase runs from 2001 to the present day, although I will argue that we may have seen hints of what the next phase will be during 2009 and 2010. Just hours before the British were due to leave the Trucial States, which were preparing to become the United Arab Emirates in November 1971, Iran invaded Greater and Lesser Tunb (Al Roken 2001: 184) and occupied Abu Musa. These three islands belonged to two of the smaller Trucial emirates: Sharjah (Abu Musa) and Ra's al-Kaimah (Greater and Lesser Tunb), and Iran had

claimed sovereignty over them for the best part of the twentieth century, only to be rebuffed by the British. The Shah had said of the islands: We need them; we shall have them; no power on earth shall stop us. (Al Roken 2001: 183) Although no power on earth may have been able to stop them, they chose to wait until the British left before actually occupying the Tunbs, and landing on Abu Musa. From the very beginning of its existence, the UAE was impinged upon by Iran. Under the Shah, Iran was one of the USA's closest allies in the Middle East, and its most reliable asset on the Gulf (Hellyer 2001: 175). As the CIA was instrumental in the Shah's overthrowing of Mossadegh (Zinn 2003: 127), there were close ties between his Iran and the USA (Kissinger 1994: 523-4) to the extent that the Carter White House exerted pressure on CBS News in order to get it to drop its coverage of American relations with the Shah, and the activities of the Savak (Zinn 2003: 216). Understandably, then, the UAE's foreign relations with the USA during this period were coloured by its close relationship with Iran with whom they were in immediate dispute. The USA in turn, despite being quick to recognise the UAE diplomatically, had a greater and more powerful ally in Iran, and did not go out of its way to cultivate relations with the federation of smaller states. During 'stage one', then, the UAE was not aligned with the USA, at all. They participated in the oil embargo, offered Sadat and Al-Assad all the help they needed during the Yom Kippur War, saying The UAE believes this war concerns the whole Arab nation, which should place all its means at the disposal of this effort. (Davidson 2008: 170). During the 1970s, the UAE was vocal about the fact that the Gulf should be kept free from foreign influences, and their support of Palestinian demands led to their breaking diplomatic relations off with Egypt after the Camp David Accords with Israel (Hellyer 2001: 173). During this period, the UAE seems to have been if not at odds with then, at least, opposed to US interests in the Gulf area. When the Shah was toppled in the Iranian Revolution in 1979, however, that deprived the US of its biggest ally in the Gulf, and this marks the beginning of the second phase, in which the UAE was less hostile to the idea of the USA, especially a USA who was not closely allied with Iran. The

start of the Iran-Iraq War marks the beginning of a real change in the UAE's attitudes to the West. Having been implacably opposed to foreign intrusions in the Gulf, the UAE learned how useful the West could be during the 1980s as they protected shipping throughout the Gulf from being affected by the war between Iraq and Iran, and especially around the Straits of Hormuz (Hellyer 2001: 176). Also during the 1980s the UAE offered support to those resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They did this primarily in support of other Muslims (Hellyer 2001: 175), but this also, for the first time, meant that they were significantly aligned with the interests of the US, in being anti-Soviet. Together with the softening of their position on foreign troops in the Gulf that brings us to the next turning point. In his analysis, The International Relations of the Persian Gulf, F.G. Gause III argues that stability is particularly important to Gulf states because there are so many non-domestic ways of exciting a population. As boundaries were drawn by the British artificially there are often ties that cut across national boundaries that can cause unrest: these can be religious, ethnic, or tribal. He says; Because ambitious rulers can use these identity issues to mobilize support across state borders, Gulf rulers have to be worried not just about conventional power threats, but also about ideological threats which their neighbors can use to stir up regime challenges from within their own polities. (Gause III 2009: 2). In July 1990, Saddam Hussein made a bellicose speech, railing against Kuwait's alleged breach of its OPEC quotas. In an attempt to deter Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait, which would have given him much greater access to the Gulf, and may have proved a threat to the stability of the region, the UAE approached the USA about performing a joint military exercise, which they did. However, when Washington went public with news of the exercise, the UAE responded angrily because it had wanted it kept a secret (apart from in Iraq, presumably) (George 1993: 72). This, then, is a remarkable turnaround, in that not only has the UAE accepted a Western presence in the Gulf, but is militarily working with it, and is trying to use it to achieve its own policy aims, all the while trying to keep it a secret. This ushers in the third phase, in which American involvement is

sought and aided, whilst, at the same time, declaimed in public. During the Gulf War, the UAE participated in the allied coalition. After it had finished, the UAE signed an agreement which allowed the USA to maintain bases on UAE soil, and this escalated in 1994 to a Defense Co-operation Agreement. By 2000, the countries were so entwined that the UAE signed an $8 billion arms deal with the USA, and Hellyer was claiming that [A]t the end of the 1990s, relations with the United States were probably closer than with any other country outside the Gulf region. (Hellyer 2001: 176) During this period of increasing alignment with the USA, however, the UAE did oppose the USA in its pronoucements, if never in its actions. In 1998, it called US plans to use military force in Iraq bad and loathsome while never ruling out UAE bases being used to launch such an attack (as Bahrain did) (Chomsky 2003: 30). Also, during this period it fostered relations with the Taliban, being one of the three states that recognised its government of Afghanistan as legitimate (Hellyer 2001: 175). The UAE also opposed the 1998 conference in Qatar designed to promote economic links between the Arab states and Israel (Hellyer 2001: 175). This phase of foreign relations with the USA, then, is one of appearing to oppose them and their influence in the Middle East whilst providing them with an important military base on the Gulf, and aligning the UAE's defenses with them. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, such double-talk became insupportable in certain arenas. The fact that two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE was hugely embarrassing for the sheiks (Katzman 2010: 6). The UAE has allowed Ariana Afghan airlines to fly operate a direct service, which it was suspected Al-Qaeda members used. The UAE, then, has had to make it clear that they were not a harbour for Islamic terrorism, whilst trying not to lose face in the Muslim world by reversing its previous stated policies on Israel and Palestine. It has allowed its air bases to be used by NATO forces in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, despite denouncing the Iraq War in 2003. tighten up its policies on imports and exports. In attempting to wash clean the embarrassment of its connections with the Taliban and defence

of Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, the UAE has, in the last decade, denounced terrorism (qualifying that in including state terrorism, too), tightened import and export controls, arrested high-ranking Al-Qaeda operatives, and strengthening its anti-terror framework. Despite Operation Iraqi Freedom being one with which the UAE did not agree the number of US troops based in the UAE went from 800 before it began to 1,800 today (Katzman 2010: 9). In the Congressional Research Service's report on the UAE this year, they said: On most regional issues, including the Arab-Israeli dispute, the UAE does not follow U.S. Policy strictly or uncritically, but it does generally agree with most U.S. assessments of regional threats, and it supports U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve regional issues (Katzman 2010: 8). That is, whilst the UAE may talk a good game, in this phase it is more than happy to go along with whatever the US does in the Gulf. However, the 2009 US-UAE agreement on nuclear co-operation for civilian nuclear power, as well as their winning of the right to play host to IRENA, the international centre for renewable energy suggest that the UAE is actively looking to broaden its energy portfolio (UAE National Media Council 2010). As Condeleeza Rice said, in pointed reference to Iran's failure to enter into a similar agreement for its nuclear power: the UAE is a powerful and timely model for the region. (Esfansiari 2009). As Davidson points out in his book: The UAE has also maintained its peacebrokering momentum by positioning itself as the key intermediary in the looming Iranian nuclear crisis. (Davidson 2008: 169) The next phase for the UAE may be to be the new Iran, to be for the US what the Shah's regime was throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The UAE may become the living embodiment of everything its old rival is not for the US (despite lagging behind when it comes to democratic elections, and certain human rights abuses (Katzman 2010: 4)), and the launchpad for any attack that might be made on it. In November 2004, Sheik Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahayhan died and was replaced by his son. Hellyer says of Sheik Zayid that he: stamped his own distinctive style on the foreign policy of the UAE Government, as well as on its domestic policy. (Hellyer 2001: 164). However, looked at from the point of view of the US his 'own distinctive style' as characterised by his foreign policy was not

one of consistency, conciliation, and charisma; but of opportunism, hypocrisy, and a fixation on preserving the status quo.

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