I have always been impressed with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. For one, he has been a very courageous ruler. He has big plans for the United Arab Emirates and is a stabilizing force for the region. I think the foreign policy that he has paved since I first began my role at the White House in 2017 has been pragmatic, realistic, respectful and highly beneficial for the region and beyond. Entering into Abraham Accords was a courageous move by him.
The Abraham Accords were the result of bridges being built and slow, careful steps being taken, over many years. These historic accords could not have happened without President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco and His Majesty King Hamad of Bahrain. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed deserves a very significant portion of the credit. Each of these leaders are brave, courageous, and bold; they each made the right decision for their own countries and for the region as a whole, including Israel.
The United States also benefits from the Abraham Accords. The world is a safer place when tensions between the Gulf and some of its regional allies, partners and neighbors is lower. The region is slowly realizing that they are better, stronger and safer together. Hopefully the intelligence sharing and security and military ties will grow and thrive in order to keep each of these countries safe. Time will tell whether the UAE’s new investment agreement with Turkey is a smart move. But I can appreciate the logic to the approach the UAE has taken with Turkey.
Then there is the question of Iran. Some may criticize the UAE for engaging with Iran. But I think we need to respect what the UAE is looking into. No different from Israel, the UAE and its other neighbors, live in a very tough neighborhood. First and foremost, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed needs to worry about the UAE’s national security. If the UAE (and some others in the region) believe that exploring engagement with Iran is better than non-engagement, and if they believe that engagement with Iran may keep the UAE safe, it is not for others to criticize. We don’t live there. We are not in the danger zone the way the UAE is. I may not be happy about the overtures from the UAE to Iran, and I think the Iranian regime cannot be trusted. The Iranian regime has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and wants to attack the United States as well. So, I view the Iranian regime (but not the Iranian people) as an enemy. But my views, and the views of the United States, don’t override the views of the UAE. The UAE needs to do what it has to do to protect itself and succeed with its grand plans. Hopefully, the UAE will keep the US, Israeli and other regional interests in mind as it navigates this complex situation. I respect and understand what the UAE is trying to do by engagement with Iran. If I was advising Sheikh Mohammed and he asked me if he should try to engage with Iran, I would probably support engagement for a limited time, to see if such engagement could lead to stability. The engagement cannot be done in a naïve, unrealistic manner. I am certainly not worried about Sheikh Mohammed being naïve or unrealistic. The notion of seeing if there is any positive to be gained with engagement should not simply be cast aside.
Sheik Muhammad bin Zayed is operating in a very difficult, complicated regional and international environment. It has become even more complex in 2022. Based on my experience with Sheik Muhammad and his approach, I suspect he will figure out a way to navigate through these thorny issues. I believe that he will proceed in a manner that protects the UAE and that does not jeopardize the Abraham Accords or the United Sates.
I am excited about the future of the Emirates, and other parts of the region. With each trip I take to the region, I am more and more convinced that the future being created in this region is on an amazing upward trajectory. A significant driver of this trajectory is Sheik Muhammad, now the president of the UAE.
The UAE is a very important ally and friend of the United States of America. I hope the United States works hard to maintain and grow that friendship. We need it and each of our friends and allies in the region, including Israel, benefits from it,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Greenblatt was the White House Envoy to the Middle East from 2017-2019. He is the host of The Diplomat podcast on Newsweek and the author of the new book “In the Path of Abraham” about today’s new Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter @GreenblattJD