UAE articulates strong stance against Qatar

• Emirati ambassador to the U.S. articulates UAE’s strong stance against Qatar
• Russia’s top diplomat travels to the Emirates for talks on Qatar crisis
• Abu Dhabi condemns the North Korean regime

August 2
UAE ambassador to Washington comments on secularism that fuels anger
Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, stated that Qatar’s vision for the Arab world opposes that of the Saudi/UAE-led bloc of countries blockading the tiny gas-rich country. Otaiba declared, “If you ask UAE, Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain what kind of Middle East they want to see ten years from now, it will be fundamentally opposed to what Qatar wants to see… What we would like to see is more secular, stable, prosperous, empowered, strong governments.” Abu Dhabi’s ambassador to Washington pointed to Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, accusing Qatar of sponsoring radical Islamist terrorists in those three countries.

The Arab Gulf country’s ambassador to the U.S. received considerable criticism for his remarks about secularism, particularly from Saudis who took offense to the idea of Riyadh waging a non-religious foreign policy. New Arab published an article which quoted various Saudis such as the late King Saud bin Abdulaziz’s daughter, Fahda bint Saud bin Abdulaziz, who tweeted: “There is a conspiracy against Saudi Arabia and Islam and this has become clear to the world.” She also called on authorities in the Kingdom to respond to Otaiba’s remarks and accused the Emirati diplomat of unacceptable comments.

August 9
Yousef al-Otaiba responds to Washington Post piece regarding the UAE and the Taliban
The UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, responding to the August 1 article, “UAE Competed with Qatar to Host Taliban Embassy, Leaked Emails Show”. The Emirati diplomat clarified that Abu Dhabi had made preparations to a host a Taliban in the UAE’s capital but had three “firm conditions” which the Taliban did not accept, resulting in the Emiratis withdrawing their offer. These three conditions included: “First, the Taliban must denounce al-Qaeda and its founder, Osama bin Laden. Second, the Taliban must recognize the Afghan Constitution. Third, the Taliban must renounce violence and lay down their weapons.”

August 13
Influential Shi’ite cleric from Iraq visits the UAE
Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s Sadr movement, came to Abu Dhabi and met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahayan (MBZ), ruler of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of the UAE armed forces. The UAE flew in the Iraqi Shi’ite cleric who is improving Sunni-Shi’ite relations in the Middle East with MBZ. According to Sadr’s office in Iraq, “The two sides emphasized the importance to act in true Islamic spirit and reject violence and extremist thought.” The UAE’s state-run media reported that MBZ said, “Experience has taught us to always call for what brings Arabs and Muslims together, and to reject the advocates of division.”

August 19
Emirati diplomat’s criticism of Saudi Arabia surfaces in email leak
“Global Leaks” (a group that hacks computers) exposed criticism of Saudi Arabia made by Abu Dhabi’s ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba. In a profanity-laced email from 2008, al-Otaiba responded to a Saudi decision to prohibit the sale of red roses on Valentine’s Day by calling the leadership in Riyadh “coo coo”.

August 29
UAE condemns North Korea’s ballistic missile firing over Japan
While speaking in Abu Dhabi with his Russian counterpart, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, joined other diplomats across the world in condemning North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory. He stated, “The situation cannot continue to escalate between North Korea on one side and Japan and South Korea on the other.” In Sheikh Abdullah’s words, “North Korea cannot continue to disregard the UN Security Council resolutions and the UN’s call to stop its provocations.”

Top Emirati diplomat criticizes Iranian and Turkish “colonial” role in Syria
While speaking with his Russian counterpart, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (AbZ), called for “the exit of those parties trying to reduce the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and I speak here frankly and clearly about Iran and Turkey.”

Analysis: This comment is significant because of the strategic agreement between Russia and the UAE. In front of Lavrov, AbZ called out both Turkey and Iran for “colonial behavior” that must stop. The Emirates’ chief diplomat emphasized that Turkey and Iran must
lessen their presence not only in Syria but also in other Arab lands where Abu Dhabi’s interests conflict with Ankara and/or Tehran’s – from Libya to Yemen and from Iraq to Gaza. Russia is cleverly using its relationship with the UAE to enhance the Kremlin’s multi-vector approach to the volatile region.

The Atlantic interviews the UAE’s ambassador to Washington
Abu Dhabi’s ambassador to Washington sat down with The Atlantic to discuss Middle Eastern affairs, chiefly the Qatar crisis, Iran’s foreign policy, and the threat of extremism. Regarding Qatar, he claimed that there was no “crisis”. Yusuf al-Otaiba, stated: “No one
is starving. No one is dying. Their airports are open. Their ports are open. Their hotels are open. People going in and out. All we’ve done is we’ve said, our airlines are not flying in; our ships are not going in. It’s not to isolate or marginalize Qatar—it’s to protect ourselves from Qatar.”

He continued: “Our stated goals are a behavior change from the Qataris. Why? Because we think they’re too close with the Iranians, and they’re too close to the extremists. And not coming to the table, and doubling down on Iran, confirms the position we’ve taken and why we’ve taken it. It just shows the world that, you see? We told you this was the problem.” With respect to Iran and Sunni Islamist extremism, Otaiba asserted: “We face two threats in the region. One is Iran’s behavior, and two is extremism and terrorism. For us, Hezbollah, ISIS, al-Qaeda, they’re all terrorist groups. We’re not going to distinguish whether you’re a Shiite or Sunni—if you are a threat to the stability of our country, you are a threat, regardless of your religious beliefs. I put Iran’s behavior as another category.

Iran is a sovereign state. You see that their behavior is harming the region, you see that their support for terrorist and proxy groups is destabilizing the region. Sunni extremism comes from within. Sunni extremism attempts to hijack our religion and then use it for political reasons to gain power, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, like Hamas in Palestine. These groups hide behind religion but use religion for political purposes. So the two threats are very, very serious, they just manifest themselves differently.”

August 29
Abu Dhabi and Moscow affirm their shared stances on the Syrian crisis
The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spoke at a press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Sheikh Abdullah declared: “We hope that efforts of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt will make Syria peace talks in Astana with the Syrian government and representatives of Syrian opposition groups a success in the next few days and weeks.” Abu Dhabi’s chief diplomat continued, “We need that all parties work together towards a political solution to the Syrian crisis. At the same time, we need to win steps against Daesh and Al Nusra.” He also criticized Tehran and Ankara for policies in Syria which have damaged the country’s “integrity and sovereignty.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons/Foreign and Commonwealth Office