The United Arab Emirates was forced to change its positions and policies upside down recently, due to the change in the political map in the region since the departure of Trump and the rise of Biden, and the most prominent of these changes was in its position on Qatar, which is now seeking to court it at any cost.
Observers unanimously agreed that the UAE’s setbacks, internally and externally, forced it to change its policies and begin to reduce the severity of its aggressive approach by approaching its regional opponents and making concessions to them.
In this context, the Financial Times published a report last June about the UAE’s intention to change its strategy in the Middle East from interfering and providing military support to allies, as it did with General Khalifa Haftar in Libya and the Transitional Council in Yemen.
As such, Abu Dhabi relies on providing economic support and mediating disputes such as the conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia and the tension between India and Pakistan. As well as running a back channel with Iran and seeking to reduce Emirati tensions with Turkey.
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“We want to be friends with everyone from Israel to Iran,” the British newspaper quoted an Emirati official as saying. This change, if it occurs, will represent an abandonment of the approach adopted by Abu Dhabi during the last ten years through its support for the anti-regimes of the Arab Spring.
The reasons for the great coup in the policies of Ibn Zayed
The talk about a change in the Emirati approach comes in light of the regional changes that followed the arrival of the administration of US President Joe Biden to power. During the era of his predecessor, Donald Trump, the UAE was able to infiltrate the circle of American decision-making, and was keen to exploit the void space that resulted from the weakness of American involvement in the Middle East since the era of Former President Barack Obama until the end of the Trump era.
Abu Dhabi adopted an approach that relies on direct military intervention, as it did in Yemen, political interventions as it did in Egypt, and financing one of the parties to the conflict and internal wars, as happened in Libya. However, with the departure of the Trump administration, the international circumstance that allowed Abu Dhabi to expand has changed, which prompted a shrinkage of its regional influence and role.
Also, many of the areas in which the UAE has been involved in adventures are areas where major colonial countries have been unable to survive, because they are areas that drain capabilities and resources without being able to achieve sustainable results, such as Yemen, from which the UAE announced the withdrawal of its military forces in 2019, and Libya, in which several powers compete International and regional such as Russia, France, Italy, Turkey and Egypt.
The Turkish intervention in Libya in 2019 to support the Government of National Accord in defending Tripoli and confronting Haftar’s attack contributed to curbing the latter’s project, and eliminating his hopes of extending his influence over the entire Libyan territory.
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The UAE was also subjected to deportation from Somalia and Djibouti, in light of the fear of the governments of the two countries about Abu Dhabi’s interference in their internal affairs, as well as the rapprochement of the Somali government with Turkey.
Weak human capabilities
At the internal level, the UAE, as a country, does not have a strategic depth or demographic elements to help it expand externally, as the number of its citizens does not exceed one million, according to an estimate in 2010, out of nearly 10 million Prime Time Zone residing on its territory, and the UAE imports 85% of its food supplies from abroad.
In addition, its economy, despite having great capabilities, is subject to external variables, which makes the strategic projects that are built on it fragile in the face of continuous attrition and the requirements of expanding external influence.
The global economic slowdown associated with the spread of the Corona virus has contributed to the decline in demand for oil and the decline in its prices, which negatively affected the revenues of the UAE, which occupies the seventh place in the world in the list of the largest holders of oil and natural gas reserves.
Internal disputes split the seven emirates
The UAE also has a crisis in its internal components and the absence of a unified political vision for the state. The UAE constitution stipulates that each of its seven emirates owns its local wealth, which deepens the economic gap between the Emirates and each other, and makes some poor emirates unable to generate the minimum amount of their revenues.
In addition to the involvement of each emirate in development and economic projects, the interests of the federal state are absent. Abu Dhabi’s foreign policies do not enjoy firm support from the rest of the emirates of the union, which was previously confirmed by Rashid bin Hamad Al Sharqi, son of the ruler of the Emirate of Fujairah, after his departure from the Emirates, as the American newspaper “New York Times” quoted him on July 14, 2018. The rulers of the other six emirates resented Abu Dhabi for not consulting them before sending Emirati forces to Yemen.
Tahnoun bin Zayed
Another important recent development was what the Journal of Intelligence Online revealed in its 873rd issue of March 24, 2021, when it shed light on deep differences over power within the Al Nahyan family, ruling Abu Dhabi. Specifically, between the National Security Adviser, Tahnoun bin Zayed, and Khaled bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the son of the crown prince, who is being prepared by his father to take a political role, while the family’s close circle feels uncomfortable about taking this role.
These disputes were reflected in the opening of investigations by the security services affiliated with Tahnoun with some close to Khaled bin Mohammed, head of the state security apparatus, led by Faisal Al-Bannai, CEO of Edge, which is the most prominent Emirati company in the field of defense industries.
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This led to the suspension of the program to develop a domestic aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which is supervised by the company through the “Aquila” airline, as the aircraft was scheduled to be delivered later this year.
These differences in the close circle of Mohammed bin Zayed represent a threat to the continuity of the Emirati project centered around the person of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The above factors combine to make the option of Abu Dhabi changing its aggressive intervention strategies the least costly option, but in return it will weaken Abu Dhabi’s area of influence in favor of other traditional regional powers such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
These developments highlight how small countries are unable to continue adopting expansionist strategies in light of the internal fragility factors they face, such as the limited population, the weak ability to bear large military losses, the impact of the different interests of internal components and ruling families on foreign policies, and the sensitivity of the local economy towards No global financial shocks.
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