KSA vs. UAE: The Middle East at a New Cross Roads.

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Opec impasse sees UAE ‘flexing its muscles’ against Saudi Arabia

Abu Dhabi’s refusal to agree output deal a sign of intensifying competition between the two Gulf states​


Oil output is not the only bone of contention between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

© Christophe Viseux/Bloomberg
July 4, 2021 5:34 pm by Simeon Kerr in Dubai and Anjli Raval in London

A few years ago, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia went as far as secretly drawing a plan for a political union.
While a confederation did not materialise, the Gulf’s autocratic states fought rebels in Yemen and stood united in a boycott of Qatar for its alleged support for Islamism.
In the past few days, however, cracks in this unity have become apparent as the interests of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi diverge again on issues ranging from oil production, Yemen, normalisation with Israel, and the way to handle the pandemic.

A videoconferenced meeting of Opec members and allies (Opec+) ended in deadlock on Friday after Saudi Arabia and Russia asked producers to increase production in the coming months. The request was designed to ease rising oil prices and extend an existing supply deal to ensure stability as the world embarks upon a fragile recovery out of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the UAE refused, digging its heels over a matter of its own output quota that it deems unfair. Opec members are reconvening on Monday.
“The heightened competition within the Gulf states is across a number of economic policy issues,” said Karen Young, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Saudi Arabia has clearly upped the pressure, while the UAE is pushing to secure its own profit goals in this tight market. These energy giants are preparing for the next ten years of export revenue to sustain their political economies.”


The UAE has sacrificed the most. We can’t make a new agreement under the same conditions — we have a sovereign right to negotiate that.
Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE’s energy minister
Other Opec+ countries are on board with the plan to increase production by 400,000 barrels a day each month from August to December and to extend the deal beyond its scheduled April 2022 end date.
A deterioration in Saudi-Emirati relations has combined with the UAE’s determination to expand production capacity to support oil diversification plans. The power struggle between Opec members now threatens the cartel’s ability to unify in the longer term and deliver stability to oil prices.
In a rare public intervention on Sunday, the UAE energy ministry said it supports a production increase, but asked that the country’s baseline production — from which its supply cuts are calculated — factors in its higher output capabilities and is reviewed to ensure fairness “for all parties”.
Oil output is not the only bone of contention between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
While the UAE and Saudi Arabia have built up a “reservoir of strategic alignment” in the past decade, “economic competition is intensifying among the Gulf states,” said Marwan Alblooshi, a former adviser to the UAE’s prime minister office.
The UAE in 2019 withdrew most of its military forces from Yemen, leaving Saudi Arabia alone in its battle against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Southern separatist forces allied to the UAE then clashed with Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces.
While the UAE has accepted a Saudi-led effort to end the trade and travel embargo on Qatar, Abu Dhabi has been alarmed at the speed of the reconciliation with Doha. Similarly, the UAE’s embrace of Israel in the wake of normalising relations last year has raised eyebrows in Saudi Arabia.
A different handling of the pandemic has also been a source of frustration in both states. Riyadh from Sunday has decided to bar travel to and from the UAE, where the Delta variant accounts for a third of all new cases. Saudi Arabia has not approved the Chinese-produced vaccine on which the UAE has largely depended for its mass vaccination.
Saudi Arabia’s threat to cut off multinationals from lucrative government contracts if they do not relocate their headquarters to Riyadh has been perceived as an implicit attack on Dubai, the UAE’s commercial hub where most are based.
Saudis play down talk of tensions, pointing out that Opec spats are “business” and that coronavirus restrictions are about “safety”, not politics.
“For over the past 40 years the UAE consistently followed the Saudi lead in Opec,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political science professor. “But lately, the UAE has been more adamant about its just quota and is now flexing its muscles on this front”.
Under the proposed Opec+ deal, the UAE would proportionally cut its production by 18 per cent, compared with a 5 per cent cut for the kingdom and a 5 per cent increase for Russia. The UAE said it has around 35 per cent of its current production capacity shut in, compared with an average of around 22 per cent for others in the agreement.

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The UAE had asked that baseline production references be reviewed at a later meeting. The request was declined.
“The joint ministerial monitoring committee (of Opec) unfortunately only put one option forward, to increase production on the condition of an extension to the current agreement, which would prolong the UAE’s unfair reference production baseline until December 2022,” the UAE energy ministry said in a statement.
Amrita Sen at consultancy Energy Aspects said: “Growing differences of opinion over foreign, economic and security policies between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, as well as over oil policy itself, will complicate future Opec discussions and efforts to sustain the Opec+ agreement”.
Insiders say debate has been raging in Abu Dhabi at the highest levels of the national oil company about whether to leave the oil cartel. A departure would allow the UAE to fund plans to diversify the economy — from refinery and petrochemicals production to a newly formed commodities exchange and its own crude benchmark that requires access to volumes to make it a success.
The UAE’s departure from the cartel could spark a production free-for-all that would undermine the purpose of Opec+, energy analysts have said.
“The UAE has sacrificed the most,” Suhail Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s energy minister, told CNBC on Sunday. “We can’t make a new agreement under the same conditions — we have a sovereign right to negotiate that.”

 

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جذور الخلاف بين السعودية والإمارات وأسبابه التاريخية والمستجدة

  • الكاتب: ندين عباس​
  • المصدر: الميادين نت​
  • 5 تموز 15:49​
  • خلاف سعودي إماراتي حول اتفاق "أوبك+" يستبطن في طيّاته خلافات حادة وقديمة بين الطرفين، يبدو أنها بدأت تطفو على السطح.

1625551904064.png السعودية والإمارات.. خلافات تاريخية وصراعات مستجدة السعودية والإمارات.. خلافات تاريخية وصراعات مستجدة



لم يمرّ اجتماع منظمة البلدان المصدرة للنفط "أوبك" مرور الكرام. وعلى الرغم من أنه شهد شبه اتفاق بين غالبية الأطراف المعنية، وسط معارضة إماراتية، إلا أنه أظهر للعلن خلافاً سعودياً إماراتياً، تبدى في الخلاف حول اتفاق "أوبك+"، وأبطن في طياته خلافات حادة وقديمة بين الطرفين يبدو أنها بدأت تطفو على السطح.
وانطلاقاً مما جرى في اجتماع "أوبك+"، الذي استدعى استكمال المحادثات، اليوم الإثنين، بعدما فشلت في الاتفاق على سياسة إنتاج النفط، تحدث وزيرا الطاقة في البلدين لوسائل الإعلام كل منهما عن موقف بلاده، حيث قال وزير الطاقة السعودي الأمير عبد العزيز بن سلمان إن "المقترح السعودي الروسي بشأن تمديد اتفاق خفض الإنتاج حظي بقبول الجميع، ما عدا دولة الإمارات. وإذا كانت هناك تحفظات لدى أي دولة، فلماذا سكت عنها سابقاً".
في المقابل، قال وزير الطاقة الإماراتي سهيل المزروعي إن مطلب بلاده هو العدالة والإنصاف، وإن بلاده تريد المعاملة بالمثل كبقية الدول، "ولا يمكن أن نقبل باستمرار الظلم والتضحية.. أكثر مما صبرنا وضحينا".
سريعاً، تلقفت وسائل الإعلام العالمية هذه التصريحات، وبدأت تتحدث عن أوجه الخلاف. تحت عنوان "الإمارات تستعرض قوتها ضد السعودية"، تحدثت صحيفة "فاينانشال تايمز" البريطانية عن جذور الخلاف، وقالت: "في الإمارات، يُنظر إلى تهديد السعودية بمنع الشركات المتعددة الجنسيات من الحصول على العقود الحكومية المربحة، ما لم تنقل مقراتها الرئيسية إلى الرياض، بوصفه هجوماً ضمنياً على دبي، المركز التجاري للإمارات، وحيث تتمركز معظم هذه الشركات متعددة الجنسيات، لكن السعوديين يقللون من شأن هذه التوترات، مشيرين إلى أن نزاعات أوبك هي مسألة أعمال، وأن القيود بسبب فيروس كورونا تتعلق بالسلامة، وليس بالسياسة".
لكنَّ هذا الخلاف الاقتصادي ليس الأول بينهما، فالتنافس بين أبو ظبي والرياض ليس سراً ولا حديثاً. ومع تزايد نفوذ الإمارات عسكرياً ومالياً، باتت تبحث عن مكانة خاصة.
في العام 2009 مثلاً، تلقّى مشروع الاتحاد النقدي لدول مجلس التعاون الخليجي ضربة موجعة مع إعلان الإمارات انسحابها منه، في إثر عدم اختيارها لتكون مقراً للمصرف المركزي الخليجي المستقبلي.
أتى هذا الإعلان بعد أن قرّر مجلس التعاون أن تكون السعودية مقراً للمصرف المركزي الخليجي المستقبلي، وليس الإمارات، التي تعتبر الأحق بذلك، إذ إنها كانت السباقة في تقديم ترشيحها، وسبق أن سجّلت تحفّظها على القرار.

الخلاف قديم.. وأصله حدوديّ

يعود التوتر في العلاقات بين السعودية والإمارات إلى خلاف حدودي، بدأ مع وضع حدود المملكة السعودية من قبل مؤسسها عبد العزيز آل سعود، وتمدده باتجاه أراضي الامارات وقطر وسلطنة عُمان، ما شكل بداية نشوء هذا الخلاف، الذي كان موضوعه الأساسي واحة "البريمي"، والذي حلّ حينها بتقاسم المنطقة من قبل الأطراف المتنازعة، وأخذت الإمارات 6 قرى، وسلطنة عُمان 3.
فرضت السعودية، باعتبارها القوة الأكبر، اتفاقية حدودية على الإمارات، سميت باتفاقية "جدة" في العام 1974، وترافقت مع الاعتراف السعودية بالإمارات كدولة، وحصلت مقابل ذلك على مكافأة تمثلت بمساحة من الأراضي الغنية بالنفط في المنطقة الحدودية بين البلدين.
حاولت الإمارات لاحقاً تصحيح الأمر، لكنها قوبلت برفض سعودي أحياناً، وضغط بأشكال متعددة أحياناً أخرى، ومنها منع السعودية الإماراتيين من دخول أراضيها في العام 2009، باستخدام بطاقات الهوية الخاصة بهم، تحت ذريعة أن البطاقة تحتوي خريطة تظهر أراضي سعودية على أنها جزء من الإمارات.

اليمن.. محطة مهمة في الخلاف

1625551953169.pngالقوات الإماراتية في اليمن



مع استلام الملك سلمان بن عبد العزيز زمام السلطة في السعودية، وتنصيب نجله محمد منصب ولي العهد، بدا أن العلاقات بين السعودية والإمارات أخذت طابعاً مغايراً، وخصوصاً أنّ الإمارات انخرطت سريعاً في التحالف السعودي ضد اليمن، وكانت رأس حربة في تحريض السعودية على حصار قطر ومقاطعتها.
ولكن سريعاً بدأت تظهر الخلافات حتى في ملف العدوان على اليمن، فالإمارات تضع ضمن أهدافها محاربة حزب الإصلاح في اليمن (فرع الإخوان المسلمين في اليمن)، بينما تستضيف الرياض قيادات الحزب وتتعاون مع قواته العسكرية على الأرض لمساندة قوات الرئيس اليمني عبد ربه منصور هادي.
ثمة مثال بسيط على هذه الخلافات برز في العام 2017، حين اعتقلت القوات الإماراتية في مطار عدن جنوب البلاد قائد اللواء الرابع حرس رئاسي، العميد مهران القباطي، المحسوب على الرئيس عبد ربه منصور هادي. وبعد ساعات من هذه الحادثة، صدر قرار من الرئيس هادي أقال بموجبه عيدروس الزُبيدي من منصب محافظ عدن، وعيّن عبد العزيز المفلحي خلفاً له، وهو الذي يعتبر من أبرز وأهم القيادات الجنوبية الموالية للإمارات.
ومع مرور أيام الحرب والخسائر العسكرية والاقتصادية التي مني بها الجيش السعودي، أدركت الإمارات أن السعودية غرقت في المستنقع اليمني، فأعلنت رسمياً في يوليو/تموز من العام 2019 انسحابها، مدعيةً أن أسباب هذا القرار "استراتيجية وتكتيكية"، فيما كانت قد سيطرت على مناطق تعتبرها حيوية بالنسبة إليها في جنوب اليمن وجزيرة سقطرى ومحافظة المهرة، إضافة إلى السيطرة على المطارات والموانئ اليمنية الاستراتيجية المطلة على بحر العرب وخليج عدن، فضلاً عن حقول غاز ونفط في المحافظات الشرقية، وهو بالطبع ما لا يناسب السعودية.
كما يبدو، حاولت السعودية احتواء كل هذه الأزمات، وسعت للوصول إلى اتفاقيات تمنع الاقتتال بين الأطراف التي تدعمها والأطراف الأخرى التي تدعمها الإمارات، إلا أنَ هذا الخلاف كان دائماً يعود ليتجدد، وكانت الاشتباكات تندلع على الأرض.

حصار قطر.. والدور الإماراتي

مع نشوب الخلاف بين قطر ودول الخليج، ومعها مصر، بدا جلياً الدور الإماراتي الداعم لحصار قطر والتحريض عليها، حتى إنَ وسائل الإعلام القطرية كانت تركز هجومها على الإمارات، باعتبارها المحرض على الدوحة.
ومع إعادة تطبيع العلاقات بين السعودية وحلفائها من جهة، وقطر من جهة أخرى، بدا أن العلاقات مع الإمارات لا زالت تتسم بالبرود، ولم تعد إلى طبيعتها. وبالعودة إلى تقرير "فاينانشال تايمز" وما أوردته في هذا الموضوع بالذات، تقول الصحيفة: "تشعر أبو ظبي بالقلق من سرعة المصالحة مع الدوحة"، وتعتبر أن عودة قطر إلى سابق عهدها في العلاقة مع السعودية ستخسرها الكثير من نقاط القوة في تحالفها مع السعودية، وخصوصاً في التحالفات والاتفاقات الاقتصادية، وأيضاً في الدور السياسي في المنطقة، الذي يمكن أن تؤديه الدوحة في تقريب وجهات النظر بين السعودية وإيران أو بين السعودية وتركيا، وهذا كله على حساب الدور الإماراتي الذي يبدو أنه يتراجع، وخصوصاً بعد خطوة التطبيع الأخيرة مع إسرائيل".

تعليق الرحلات الجوية بين البلدين

آخر تمظهرات الخلاف برزت قبل أيام، إذ أعلنت السعودية تعليق الرحلات الجوية إلى 3 دول، من بينها الإمارات، "للوقاية من السلالة الجديدة لكورونا"، بحسب وزارة الداخلية السعودية.
هذا الإجراء قابلته الإمارات بالمثل، إذ علقت شركة "طيران الإمارات" جميع رحلات الركاب من وإلى المملكة حتى إشعار آخر". إجراء يراه محللون بعيداً عن السياق المتعلق بمكافحة انتشار كورونا، ويربطونه بالخلاف المستجد المتصاعد بين البلدين.
 

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As de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed bin Zayed controls the Arab world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and its most potent military.

As de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed bin Zayed controls the Arab world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and its most potent military.Credit...Pool photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds


The Most Powerful Arab Ruler Isn’t M.B.S. It’s M.B.Z.

Prince Mohammed bin Zayed expanded the U.A.E.’s power by following America’s lead. He now has an increasingly bellicose agenda of his own. And President Trump seems to be following him.
As de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed bin Zayed controls the Arab world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and its most potent military.Credit...Pool photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

By David D. Kirkpatrick
  • June 2, 2019
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the 29-year-old commander of the almost negligible air force of the United Arab Emirates, had come to Washington shopping for weapons.
In 1991, in the months after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the young prince wanted to buy so much military hardware to protect his own oil-rich monarchy — from Hellfire missiles to Apache helicopters to F-16 jets — that Congress worried he might destabilize the region.
But the Pentagon, trying to cultivate accommodating allies in the Gulf, had identified Prince Mohammed as a promising partner. The favorite son of the semi-literate Bedouin who founded the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed was a serious-minded, British-trained helicopter pilot who had persuaded his father to transfer $4 billion into the United States Treasury to help pay for the 1991 war in Iraq.
Richard A. Clarke, then an assistant secretary of state, reassured lawmakers that the young prince would never become “an aggressor.”
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“The U.A.E. is not now and never will be a threat to stability or peace in the region,” Mr. Clarke said in congressional testimony. “That is very hard to imagine. Indeed, the U.A.E. is a force for peace.”
Thirty years later, Prince Mohammed, now 58, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, is arguably the most powerful leader in the Arab world. He is also among the most influential foreign voices in Washington, urging the United States to adopt his increasingly bellicose approach to the region.
[Here are five takeaways from our report on Prince Mohammed.]
Prince Mohammed is almost unknown to the American public and his tiny country has fewer citizens than Rhode Island. But he may be the richest man in the world. He controls sovereign wealth funds worth $1.3 trillion, more than any other country.
His influence operation in Washington is legendary (Mr. Clarke got rich on his payroll). His military is the Arab world’s most potent, equipped though its work with the United States to conduct high-tech surveillance and combat operations far beyond its borders.

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Desert Falcons from the United Arab Emirates Air Force flying in formation with United States F-35A Lightning IIs last month.Credit...U.S. Air Force, via Associated Press


For decades, the prince has been a key American ally, following Washington’s lead, but now he is going his own way. His special forces are active in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Egypt’s North Sinai. He has worked to thwart democratic transitions in the Middle East, helped install a reliable autocrat in Egypt and boosted a protégé to power in Saudi Arabia.

At times, the prince has contradicted American policy and destabilized neighbors. Rights groups have criticized him for jailing dissidents at home, for his role in creating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and for backing the Saudi prince whose agents killed the dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.
Yet under the Trump administration, his influence in Washington appears greater than ever. He has a rapport with President Trump, who has frequently adopted the prince’s views on Qatar, Libya and Saudi Arabia, even over the advice of cabinet officials or senior national security staff.
Western diplomats who know the prince — known as M.B.Z. — say he is obsessed with two enemies, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Trump has sought to move strongly against both and last week took steps to bypass congressional opposition to keep selling weapons to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“M.B.Z. has an extraordinary way of telling Americans his own interests but making it come across as good advice about the region,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, whose sympathy for the Arab Spring and negotiations with Iran brought blistering criticism from the Emirati prince. When it comes to influence in Washington, Mr. Rhodes added, “M.B.Z. is in a class by himself.”
Prince Mohammed worked assiduously before the presidential election to crack Mr. Trump’s inner circle, and secured a secret meeting during the transition period with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The prince also tried to broker talks between the Trump administration and Russia, a gambit that later entangled him in the special counsel’s investigation into foreign election interference.


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Today, at least five people working for Prince Mohammed have been caught up in criminal investigations growing out of that inquiry. A regular visitor to the United States for three decades, Prince Mohammed has now stayed away for two years, in part because he fears prosecutors might seek to question him or his aides, according to two people familiar with his thinking. (His brother, the foreign minister, has visited.)
The United Arab Emirates’ Embassy in Washington declined to comment. The prince’s many American defenders say it is only prudent of him to try to shape United States policy, as many governments do, and that he sees his interventions as an attempt to compensate for an American pullback.
But Prince Mohammed’s critics say that his rise is a study in unintended consequences. The obscure young prince whom Washington adopted as a pliant ally is now fanning his volatile region’s flames.
By arming the United Arab Emirates with such advanced surveillance technology, commandos and weaponry, argued Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official and fellow at the Brookings Institution. “We have created a little Frankenstein.”


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Prince Mohammed has overseen a construction boom in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.

Prince Mohammed has overseen a construction boom in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.Credit...Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

The Perfect Prince​

Most Arab royals are paunchy, long-winded and prone to keep visitors waiting. Not Prince Mohammed.
He graduated at the age of 18 from the British officers’ training program at Sandhurst. He stays slim and fit, trades tips with visitors about workout machines, and never arrives late for a meeting.
American officials invariably describe him as concise, inquisitive, even humble. He pours his own coffee, and to illustrate his love for America, sometimes tells visitors that he has taken his grandchildren to Disney World incognito.
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He makes time for low-ranking American officials and greets senior dignitaries at the airport. With a shy, lopsided smile, he will offer a tour of his country, then climb into a helicopter to fly his guest over the skyscrapers and lagoons of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“There was always a ‘wow’ factor with M.B.Z.,” recalled Marcelle Wahba, a former American ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
In the capital, Abu Dhabi, he has overseen a construction craze that has hidden the former coastline behind man-made islands. One is intended to become a financial district akin to Wall Street. Another includes a campus of New York University, a franchise of the Louvre and a planned extension of the Guggenheim.
When he meets Americans, Prince Mohammed emphasizes the things that make the United Arab Emirates more liberal than their neighbors. Women have more opportunities: A third of the cabinet ministers are female.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates allow Christian churches and Hindu or Sikh temples, partly to accommodate a vast foreign work force. (The country is estimated to have nine million residents, but fewer than a million citizens; the rest are foreign workers.)
To underscore the point, the prince last year created a Ministry of Tolerance and declared this the “Year of Tolerance.” He has hosted the Special Olympics and Pope Francis.



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Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi in February.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi in February.Credit...Ali Haider/EPA, via Shutterstock
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“I think he has done admirable work not just in diversifying the economy but in diversifying the system of thought of the population as well,” said Gen. John R. Allen, former commander of United States and N.A.T.O. forces in Afghanistan, now president of the Brookings Institution. (In between, General Allen was an adviser to the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Defense.)
The United Arab Emirates are a tiny federation of city-states, yet Abu Dhabi alone accounts for 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, making it a tempting target to a larger neighbor like Iran. In 1971, when the U.A.E. gained independence from Britain, the shah of Iran seized three disputed Persian Gulf islands.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a 90-year-old Islamist movement founded in Egypt, has become mainstream in many Arab countries. On that subject, Prince Mohammed says his dread is more personal.
His father assigned a prominent Brotherhood member, Ezzedine Ibrahim, as Prince Mohammed’s tutor, and he attempted an indoctrination that backfired, the prince often says.
“I am an Arab, I am a Muslim and I pray. And in the 1970s and early 1980s I was one of them,” Prince Mohammed told visiting American diplomats in 2007, as they reported in a classified cable released by WikiLeaks. “I believe these guys have an agenda.”
He worries about the appeal of Islamist politics to his population. As many as 80 percent of the soldiers in his forces would answer the call of “some holy man in Mecca,” he once told American diplomats, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks.
For that reason, diplomats say, Prince Mohammed has long argued that the Arab world is not ready for democracy. Islamists would win any elections.


“In any Muslim country, you will see the same result,” he said in a 2007 meeting with American officials. “The Middle East is not California.”
The United Arab Emirates began allowing American forces to operate from bases inside the country during the Persian Gulf war of 1991. Since then, the prince’s commandos and air forces have been deployed with the Americans in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as against the Islamic State.



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A demonstration by members of the U.A.E. during the opening of the International Defence Exhibition & Conference in Abu Dhabi in February.

A demonstration by members of the U.A.E. during the opening of the International Defence Exhibition & Conference in Abu Dhabi in February.Credit...Christopher Pike/Reuters

He has recruited American commanders to run his military and former spies to set up his intelligence services. He also acquired more weaponry in the four years before 2010 than the other five Gulf monarchies combined, including 80 F-16 fighters, 30 Apache combat helicopters, and 62 French Mirage jets.
Some American officers describe the United Arab Emirates as “Little Sparta.”
With advice from former top military commanders including former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Allen, Prince Mohammed has even developed an Emirati defense industry, producing an amphibious armored vehicle known as The Beast and others that he is already supplying to clients in Libya and Egypt.
The United Arab Emirates are also preparing a low-altitude propeller-driven bomber for counterinsurgency combat — an idea Mr. Mattis had long recommended for the United States, a former officer close to him said.
Prince Mohammed has often told American officials that he saw Israel as an ally against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel trusted him enough to sell him upgrades for his F-16s, as well as advanced mobile phone spyware.


To many in Washington, Prince Mohammed had become America’s best friend in the region, a dutiful partner who could be counted on for tasks from countering Iranian influence in Lebanon to funding construction in Iraq.
“It was well known that if you needed something done in the Middle East,” recalled Richard G. Olson, a former United States ambassador to Abu Dhabi, “the Emiratis would do it.”



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President Barack Obama welcoming Prince Mohammed at the White House in 2015.

President Barack Obama welcoming Prince Mohammed at the White House in 2015.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

A Prince Goes Rogue​

Prince Mohammed seemed to find a kindred spirit when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, White House aides said. Both were detached, analytic and intrigued by big questions. For a time, Mr. Obama sought out phone conversations with Prince Mohammed more than with any other foreign leader, several senior White House officials recalled.
But the Arab Spring came between them. Uprisings swept the region. The Muslim Brotherhood was winning elections. And Mr. Obama appeared to endorse the demands for democracy — though in Syria, where the uprising threatened a foe of the Emiratis, he balked at military action.

Then it emerged that the Obama administration was in secret nuclear talks with Iran.
“They felt not only ignored — they felt betrayed by the Obama administration, and I think Prince Mohammed felt it particularly and personally,” said Stephen Hadley, a national security adviser under President George W. Bush who has stayed close to the prince.


After the uprisings, Prince Mohammed saw the United Arab Emirates as the only one of the 22 Arab states still on its feet, with a stable government, functional economy, able military and “moderate ideology,” said Abdulkhalleq Abdulla, an Emirati political scientist with access to the country’s senior officials.
“The U.A.E. is part of this very dangerous region that is getting more dangerous by the day — full of chaos and wars and extremists,” he said. “So the motivation is this: If we don’t go after the bad guys, they will come after us.”



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Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2012. Mr. Obama’s sympathy for the Arab Spring drew blistering criticism from the Emirati prince.

Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2012. Mr. Obama’s sympathy for the Arab Spring drew blistering criticism from the Emirati prince.Credit...Moises Saman for The New York Times
At home, Prince Mohammed hired a company linked to Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater, to create a force of Colombian, South African and other mercenaries. He crushed any hint of dissent, arresting five activists for organizing a petition for democratic reforms (signed by only 132 people) and rounding up dozens suspected of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The United Arab Emirates revved up its influence machine in Washington, too. They were among the biggest spenders among foreign governments on Washington advocates and consultants, paying as much $21 million in 2017, according to a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics. They earned good will with million-dollar donations after natural disasters, and they sought to frame public debate by giving millions more to major think tanks.
The Middle East Institute recently received $20 million. Its chairman is Mr. Clarke, the former official who pushed through the U.A.E. defense contracts. After leaving government in 2003, he had also founded a consultancy with the United Arab Emirates as a primary client. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Emirati Ambassador Yousef Otaiba hammered his many contacts in the White House and on Capitol Hill, arguing that Mr. Obama was ceding the region to extremists and Iran. The prince himself made the case at the highest levels. He “gave me an earful,” former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recalled in a memoir.


In the Middle East, Prince Mohammed did more than talk. In Egypt, he backed a military takeover in 2013 that removed an elected president who was a Muslim Brotherhood leader. In the Horn of Africa, he dispatched a force to Somalia first to combat piracy and then to fight extremists. He went on to establish commercial ports or naval bases around the Gulf of Aden.
In Libya, Prince Mohammed defied American pleas and a United Nations embargo by arming the forces of the militia leader and would-be strongman Khalifa Hifter. Emirati pilots carried out airstrikes in Tripoli and eventually established an air base in eastern Libya.
In the past, the prince looked for a “green light” from Washington, said Ms. Wahba, the former American ambassador. Now he may send a heads-up, she said, but “he is not asking permission anymore.”

Saudi Arabia, the giant next door, had quarreled with the United Arab Emirates over borders and, as the regional heavyweight, also constrained U.A.E. foreign policy. By the end of 2014, the position of crown prince — next in line for the throne — had passed to a known foe of the Emirati prince.



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The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, with Prince Mohammed in Abu Dhabi last year.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, with Prince Mohammed in Abu Dhabi last year.Credit...Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So he plunged into the internal Saudi succession battle and waged an all-out lobbying campaign in Washington on behalf of a little-known alternative: the 29-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a favorite son of the aged Saudi king.
“M.B.Z.’s message was, if you trust me and you like me, you will like this guy because he is cut from the same cloth,” recalled Mr. Rhodes, the Obama adviser.


By March 2015, the two princes had invaded Yemen together to roll back a takeover by a faction aligned with Iran. Then in 2017, as the Saudi prince consolidated his power, they cut off all trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar to pressure it into abandoning support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Both the Yemen and Qatar conflicts are routinely described as Saudi-led, but the Emirati prince first sought to sell them to Washington, Mr. Rhodes and other former officials recalled.
By late 2015, American diplomats say, Prince Mohammed was also suggesting that the United Arab Emirates and a new Saudi leadership could be crucial in bringing the Palestinians around to some new peace agreement — the so-called “outside-in” approach to a deal.
But for that, Prince Mohammed awaited a new administration.



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The Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev acts as a liaison between President Vladimir V. Putin and the Persian Gulf monarchs, according to the special counsel’s report.

The Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev acts as a liaison between President Vladimir V. Putin and the Persian Gulf monarchs, according to the special counsel’s report.Credit...Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

All the Prince’s Men​

It was meant to be a personal farewell.
Despite their sharp differences, Prince Mohammed had remained cordial with Mr. Obama, and the president thought they shared a mutual respect, according to four senior White House officials. So when the prince requested a final meeting, as friends, Mr. Obama agreed to a lunch at the White House in December 2016.
But Prince Mohammed backed out without much explanation. He flew instead to New York for his first face-to-face meeting with Jared Kushner and other advisers to the president-elect, Donald J. Trump.
To arrange the meetings, Prince Mohammed had turned to a financier, Richard Gerson, founder of Falcon Edge Capital. He had worked with the prince for years, and he was also a friend of Mr. Kushner.


“I am always here as your trusted family back channel any time you want to discreetly pass something,” Mr. Gerson wrote to the prince after the election in a private text message, one of several provided to The Times by a third party and corroborated independently. He signed off another message as “your loyal soldier.”
The trip was supposed to be secret, but intelligence agencies detected the prince’s arrival. Mr. Obama’s advisers were stunned. But Prince Mohammed was already working to reverse the administration’s policies, talking to Mr. Trump’s advisers about the dangers of Iran and about Palestinian peace talks, according to two people familiar with the meetings.
“They were deeply impressed with you and already are convinced that you are their true friend and closest ally,” Mr. Gerson wrote to the prince after the meetings.
Prince Mohammed was positioning himself as an intermediary to Russia, too.
One of Prince Mohammed’s younger brothers had introduced Mr. Gerson to a Russian businessman who acts as a liaison between President Vladimir V. Putin and the Persian Gulf monarchs, according to the special counsel’s report. The Russian businessman, Kirill Dmitriev, conferred with Mr. Gerson about a “reconciliation plan” for the United States and Russia, and shortly before the inauguration Mr. Gerson gave a two-page summary of the plan to Mr. Kushner.
Mr. Gerson declined to comment for this article.
The next month, in January, Prince Mohammed invited Mr. Dmitriev to an Emirati retreat in the Seychelles to meet with someone else they thought represented the Trump team: Mr. Prince, the Blackwater founder who had recruited mercenaries for the United Arab Emirates.



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Prince Mohammed hired an American security company linked to Erik Prince to create a security force of mercenaries.

Prince Mohammed hired an American security company linked to Erik Prince to create a security force of mercenaries.Credit...Zach Gibson for The New York Times
Why Prince Mohammed would seek to connect Russia with Mr. Trump’s circle remains a matter of debate, but he has worked for years to try to entice Mr. Putin away from Iran, according to American diplomats and leaked emails from the Emirati ambassador in Washington.
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But prosecutors are also investigating the activities of other operatives and go-betweens working for the prince who tried to insinuate themselves around Mr. Trump.
Investigators are still examining the campaign contacts of an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation who has worked for Prince Mohammed and of a Lebanese-American businessman who acted as his emissary. Other prosecutors are investigating whether another top Republican donor whose security company worked for the prince should legally have registered as his agent.
The special counsel’s office has also questioned Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati real-estate developer based in Los Angeles who is close to Prince Mohammed and to his brother — the head of Emirati intelligence. Mr. al-Malik is also close to Mr. Trump’s friend Tom Barrack, and investigators are asking whether Mr. al-Malik was part of an illegal influence scheme, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Another investigation, prompted by a whistle-blower, is examining the possibility that the United Arab Emirates used cyberespionage techniques from former American operatives to spy on American citizens.
Yet the prince’s courtship of the Trump administration has not been damaged. In the two and a half years since his first meeting with Mr. Kushner, Prince Mohammed has received almost everything he sought from the White House.


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President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Prince Mohammed in Cairo last year.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Prince Mohammed in Cairo last year.Credit...Egyptian Presidency, via Reuters

A Prince Undaunted​

Each winter, Prince Mohammed invites financiers and former officials to Abu Dhabi for a salon that demonstrates his global influence.

The guest list last December included former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; former French President Nicolas Sarkozy; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Mr. Hadley, the Bush-era national security adviser; the American investors Mohamed A. El-Erian, David M. Rubenstein and Thomas S. Kaplan; and the Chinese computer scientist and investor Kai-Fu Lee.
Undeterred, the prince also included Mr. Dmitriev, the Russian businessman linked to Mr. Putin.
Prince Mohammed’s post-Arab Spring interventions have hardly stabilized the region. An aide he sent to Cairo to help turn around the moribund economy has returned in frustration.
Egypt’s military-backed government still depends on billions of dollars a year in assistance from the United Arab Emirates and its Gulf allies, and despite Emirati help and Israeli airstrikes, Cairo has not yet quelled a militant backlash centered in the North Sinai.
The isolation of Qatar has failed to change its policies. In Libya, Khalifa Hifter is mired in a bloody stalemate.
Prince Mohammed’s push in the Horn of Africa has set off a competition for access and influence among rivals like Turkey and Qatar. In Somalia, after allegations of bribery by the fragile central government, Emirati forces have shifted to the semiautonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland.
Djibouti, alleging neglect, last year replaced its Emirati port managers with a Chinese rival.
“He thinks he is Machiavelli but he acts more like Mussolini,” said Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former official in the Central Intelligence Agency.
In Saudi Arabia, the Emirati prince has been embarrassed by the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that his Saudi protégé had ordered the brutal murder of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia-based Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist. Their joint, four-year-old intervention in Yemen is turning into a quagmire, with horrific civilian casualties.




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A tribute to the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.

A tribute to the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.Credit...Emrah Gurel/Associated Press

“The U.A.E. is a stain on the world conscience — the U.A.E. as it is currently governed is violating every norm of the civilized world,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California.
Yet the prince’s standing remains strong inside the Trump administration. The “outside-in” proposals for Israeli-Palestinian peace passed over by the Obama administration are at the core of Mr. Kushner’s emerging plans.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly backed the positions of the Emirati prince: by endorsing his Saudi protégé after the Khashoggi killing, by applauding the isolation of Qatar even as the secretary of state and secretary of defense publicly opposed it, by canceling the nuclear deal with Iran, by seeking to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, and by vetoing legislation to cut off American military support for Saudi and Emirati forces in Yemen.
In April, Mr. Trump publicly endorsed the Emiratis’ favored militia leader in Libya one day after a phone call with Prince Mohammed — even through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously urged the same leader to retreat.
Mr. Mattis, the former secretary of defense, last month delivered a lecture in Abu Dhabi sponsored by Prince Mohammed. When he joined the Trump administration, Mr. Mattis disclosed that he had received $242,000 in annual fees as well as valuable stock options as a board member at the defense contractor General Dynamics, which does extensive business with Abu Dhabi. He had also worked as an unpaid adviser to Prince Mohammed.
“It’s the Year of Tolerance. How many countries in the world right now are having a year of tolerance?” Mr. Mattis asked. “I don’t know of any,” he said. “You are an example.”

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Jim Mattis, the former United States secretary of defense, in Abu Dhabi in May.

Jim Mattis, the former United States secretary of defense, in Abu Dhabi in May.Credit...Eissa Al Hammadi/Saudi Press Agency, via Associated Press
 

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Analysis: OPEC disagreement lays bare growing UAE-Saudi economic rivalry



DUBAI, July 5 (Reuters) - Rare public disagreement between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia over OPEC policy points to a growing economic rivalry between the two largest Arab economies which only looks set to intensify, several regional analysts said.

The UAE's opposition this weekend to a proposed eight-month extension to output curbs, favoured by Saudi Arabia, was a rare display of defiance by Abu Dhabi, whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan has been a staunch ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The disagreement led the OPEC+ talks to be called off on Monday.

"The current OPEC standoff signals a wider push by the UAE to assert its economic and national self-interest vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia," said Amir Khan, senior economist at Saudi National Bank.

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The alliance between the young ambitious princes had propelled a hawkish foreign policy that saw them launch a military campaign in Yemen, lead an Arab boycott of Qatar and combat Islamist political groups in the Middle East and beyond.

But as Saudi Arabia tries to wean its economy off oil, it is vying with the UAE for foreign capital and talent, although economists say it will take time to truly challenge the region's business, trade and tourism hub.

"There is this creeping economic competition in the relationship between the two biggest Arab economies and the competition is bound to intensify," said Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla.

"The UAE is speaking its mind ... but the relationship is strong and the leadership know how to resolve issues," he said.


The UAE foreign ministry and the Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on their economic and political relations.

While common perceived threats from Iran and Islamist groups in the region are likely to keep a lid on political differences, analysts say, the two states are seen as likely to increasingly butt heads on matters of economic sovereignty.

Riyadh has warned foreign firms they could lose out on state contracts if they do not set up regional headquarters in the kingdom by 2024 and in another challenge to the UAE's status as the region's trade and business hub, it this week amended rules for imports from Gulf states to exclude goods made in free zones, a major driver of Dubai's economy.

Several diplomats in the region have said the UAE-Saudi alliance has gone as far as it can as national economic interests take precedence, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


COMMON CONCERNS

The first indication of a parting of ways came in 2019 when the UAE withdrew its military presence in Yemen, leaving Riyadh mired in a costly war that directly threatens its security. Abu Dhabi still maintains sway via Yemeni forces, some of whom have challenged Yemen's Saudi-backed government.

The UAE has also dragged its feet on a deal announced by Saudi Arabia in January to restore political ties with Qatar as Riyadh moved to ease friction with U.S. President Joe Biden over its human rights record and Yemen.

While the UAE last year forged ties with Israel in a move that enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington, Riyadh has by contrast made tentative moves to improve its relationship with Turkey.


But the UAE and Saudi remain bound by concern over Iran's expanding influence via regional proxies and security threats that pose a risk to their economic ambitions.

The UAE started engaging with Iran in 2019 to ease tensions after attacks on tankers in Gulf waters and on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Tehran, a charge it denies.

The kingdom followed suit this year, launching direct talks with Tehran over Yemen where they are locked in a proxy conflict. The move came as Biden sought to revive a nuclear deal between global powers and Iran that Riyadh opposed for not tackling Iran's missile capabilities and regional activities.

"The potential U.S.-Iran detente, the energy transition, and competition in non-oil diversification makes for a particularly challenging period of divergence this time round," Hasnain Malik, head of equity strategy at Tellimer, said of Saudi-UAE relations.


Saudi National Bank's Khan said the UAE, which has invested heavily to boost oil output capacity, wants to move quickly to monetise reserves given a global push away from fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia is in greater need of price stability to deliver on domestic mega projects that are largely being driven by its sovereign wealth fund.

"Now you can see head-to-head confrontation and the UAE is punching above its weight," one foreign diplomat in Riyadh said of the OPEC disagreement. "This is the first time the two countries exchange public and strongly worded accusations."

While economic issues could see further public disagreement, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are expected to continue to deal more discreetly with political matters to preserve an image of unity, said British academic and Gulf expert Christopher Davidson.
 

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خلاف علني نادر بين السعودية والإمارات...ما أسبابه وهل سيتفاقم؟
 

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تعليق ساااخن على الخلاف السعودي الإماراتي (عندما يحكم السفهاء) د.عبدالعزيز الخزرج الأنصاري​

 

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:lol:

د.اسامة فوزي # 2458 - المواجهة بين ابن زايد وابن سلمان تهدد بزنس الاحيه وتجارة الترللي بين البلدين​

 

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Anyone curious about what's going on there, this is becoming quite interesting.


أخطر تحليل عن الخلاف الحقيقي بين الامارات والسعودية د.عبدالعزيز الخزرج الأنصاري​

 

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It looks like the picture is becoming clearer.

UAE (MBZ) vs. KSA (MBS); Qatar and Yemen between them, Egypt and Turkey across and Israel playing its game.

MBZ promoted MBS to the West into becoming future King of Saudi Arabia so he can use him which he did into sending him against Qatar and sinking him into Yemen quagmire.

MBS finally realized being used. He reopens with Qatar, sends nicer messages to Iran and shows willingness to stop Yemen war and getting closer to Turkey and Egypt.

MBS also realizes losing popularity in the Arab street for opening up towards Israel; he turned around and acted as he was against UAE for importing Israeli goods and sending them to KSA.

Anyone remember why Saddam invaded Kuwait?
It was because Saddam the Arab Nationalist felt used and betrayed by the Arabs after paying the full high price by himself fighting their "common Persian enemy" while the Kuwaitis were living lavish life stealing Iraqi oil that Iraq badly needed because of its war debt let alone its martyrs.

Saudi Arabia is finding itself in that same situation. It is hurting financially while the UAE is completely indifferent.

Would young and inexperienced MBS repeat Saddam’s mistake by attacking his neighbor that he can easily vanquish like Saddam did in Kuwait? And if he does, would his fate turn like Saddam’s?


Good review here:
 
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Saudi commentators go public in criticising UAE role in Yemen


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DUBAI, July 18 (Reuters) - Pro-government commentators in Saudi Arabia are publicly criticising the United Arab Emirates' role in Yemen, a rare move that reflects political and economic tensions between the two Gulf allies that also led to an open standoff over oil policy.

Saudi Arabia is trying to contain a power struggle in southern Yemen between the recognised government backed by Riyadh and the main separatist group supported by the UAE - which risks broadening a war that Saudi Arabia is struggling to exit.

"If Abu Dhabi does not help in implementing the Riyadh agreement regarding the south Yemen crisis, and keeps obstructing it, I think that Saudi-Emirati ties will continue to be tested," political writer Suleiman al-Oqeliy, who often reflects official Saudi positions, said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

"The Kingdom, government and people, will not allow anyone to tamper with Yemen's security and harm it. Its patience may be great but it has limits," tweeted Abdullah al-Hatayla, deputy editor of Saudi Arabia's semi-official Okaz newspaper.


Social media is closely monitored by authorities in the Gulf Arab region and pro-government commentators in Saudi Arabia usually refrain from criticising the kingdom's allies.

Saudi and UAE authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

The UAE is a member of the military coalition led by Riyadh that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthis who ousted the government from the capital Sanaa.

Abu Dhabi ended its military presence in 2019, saddling Riyadh with a costly and unpopular war, but continues to hold sway through Yemeni fighters it armed and trained.

Among them are forces of the Southern Transitional Council, also members of the coalition, who have twice seized the southern port of Aden, the interim headquarters of the Saudi-backed government, prompting Riyadh to broker a power-sharing deal which has yet to be fully implemented. read more

The criticism by the commentators comes after a public dispute between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that disrupted policy setting by OPEC+, a group that includes OPEC and its allies. OPEC+ secured agreement to boost oil supplies when it reconvened on Sunday after the two Gulf producers reached an understanding. read more

However analysts say increasing economic competition is laying bare differences between Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the kingdom moves to challenge its neighbour's dominance as the region's business, trade and tourism hub.

The regional alliance that saw Saudi Arabia and the UAE join forces to project power in the Middle East and beyond and combat Islamist groups - coordinating use of financial clout, and in Yemen, military force - has loosened as national interests come to the fore.
 
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