A Path of Cooperation and Opportunity Between the U.S. and the UAE


The impressive string of world leaders visiting the UAE following the recent death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, made clear that the UAE plays an outsized role in regional and global affairs. The U.S. in particular, has a keen interest in maintaining and strengthening ties with new UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as an ally in diplomatic and military matters and as a partner in current and future energy supply and innovation.

The Cipher Brief talked about what this means and what comes next with Middle East Expert Norm Roule, who served as the National Intelligence Manager for Iran at ODNI and since retiring, travels extensively through the region for meetings with top regional leaders.

The Cipher Brief: What are the prospects for broadened U.S.-UAE ties, and what are the incentives and obstacles to stronger bilateral relations in the future?

Roule: The rank and stature of the U.S. delegation that traveled to the UAE following the passing of UAE President Shaykh Khalifah bin Zayed was significant. The list of officials chosen to be part of this delegation tells us why the relationship is vital to Washington. The group included our senior-most officials on foreign policy, national security, and energy issues.

The security angle is easy to understand – the UAE is a trusted and valued partner and earned that reputation. The enemies of the UAE are our enemies, and Abu Dhabi has deployed personnel to fight with our forces on multiple occasions. 

Energy discussions with the Gulf appropriately center on oil and gas. By late 2022, the UAE and Saudi Arabia will likely be the only remaining members of OPEC with spare production capacity. But the UAE’s green energy efforts are respected for their ambition and prospects, as shown by the presence of former Secretary John Kerry. Secretary Kerry has made multiple trips to the GCC, and my understanding is that he has been impressed by their investment in climate change technologies. The U.S. has also been impressed by the Emirati commitment to interfaith and multicultural engagement and its role in the development of the Abraham Accords.

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