Baku, Azerbaijan, July 19
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
The United Arab Emirates is the largest trade, financial and tourist center in the Middle East and the Arab world, as well as one of the world's major centers of re-export, economic and technological development along with Shanghai and Singapore.
The UAE's economy is based on oil exports, international trade and tourism, world-class sea trade ports and container terminals, first-class international airports, construction, real estate and free economic zones.
All of the above is the calling card of the country, which the whole world has known for a long time. The UAE was established in 1971. It took 20 years to rise and grow, and the next 20 years to polish the energy, logistics, trade and tourism schemes that generate billions of dollars in profits.
And, all of a sudden, since 2011 the UAE has gone through metamorphoses that have eventually turned a generally neutral country into one of the most active political players in the region.
Why is that a very small prosperous country, one of the ten richest countries in the world, where per capita income is more than $40,000, and where half of the planet aspires to get permanent residence, and which, it would seem, has found its lucky star among the countries of the world community, suddenly sets itself on fire for its interests in big politics?
The accumulated huge funds sooner or later had to show itself in foreign policy. The Emirates came out of its citadel and joined the turf war in the Middle East.
Now it is hard to find an Arab country without UAE’s capital for revolution or counter-revolution.
Since the beginning of the Arab spring and the “Muslim Brotherhood” (banned in the US, Russia, some Arab countries) coming to power in Egypt, the rulers of the Emirates began to radically revise their foreign policy in order not just to defend their principles, but to expand as well. Otherwise, it could badly end for the Royal dynasty.
The fight against Muslim brothers, wherever they are, is a priority for the policy of the Emirates.
The Brethren's ideology, which, based on Islam and the Sharia, advocates political pluralism and free elections, civil society and the provision of equal opportunities for all, is disastrous for the absolute power of most Gulf monarchies, but in the UAE the fear of spreading the ideology has tripled.
For the UAE rulers, the “Muslim Brotherhood” is also dangerous due to the fact that after a long history of persecution they have learned to operate effectively underground and that there are lots of intellectuals and well-educated people within their ranks. The Brotherhood holds a moderate line unlike radical Islamists who are ready to shed blood, thereby winning hearts of many Arabs, which pose even greater threat to Arab monarchies.
Therefore, when a representative of the “Muslim Brotherhood” won the democratic elections in Egypt, the UAE is said to have contributed financial resources to help overthrow him. The same way the UAE is now operating in Libya and Sudan.
Then came the invasion of Yemen. However, the Houthis, as it turned out, were not the main target for UAE to join a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Apart from the traditional and uncompromising struggle with members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen (Al-Islah party), one of the main tasks was the use of “Yemeni shooting range” to gain combat experience for Emirates’ armed forces.
Abu Dhabi also tried to strengthen its presence along the coast of the strategic Gulf of Aden, through which important seaborne trade routes pass.
The UAE has long viewed Iran as a threat due to the Shiite factor, a territorial dispute between the two countries, as well as the fear of exporting the Islamic revolution. In 2015, after the then US president Obama gave the green light to the Iranian nuclear deal, Tehran's influence in the region increased, and this has become another stress factor for the Emirates.
The authority of Turkey and its influence on Arab countries, and in particular its support for Qatar – the apologist of the Muslim Brotherhood, with which the Gulf countries curtailed relations, is another challenge for the “Emirati Paradise.”
The UAE Minister of foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash clearly expressed his country’s opinion about Turkey and Iran’s influence. He said the Arab world should... reject the ambitions of some forces in the region trying to “write their own ticket” to the Arab countries.
“The Arab world will not allow Iran and Turkey to rule it,” he said.
The UAE is a small country with very limited human resources and relatively little foreign policy experience. Insisting on their own political agenda in the region is likely to be fraught with faults and making enemies.
Maybe, it should have stayed in the status of Middle Eastern Switzerland? Or neutral Oman? In any case, the UAE is already in big politics, and its rulers will be responsible for success or failure.
But it seems that the UAE leaders can show flexibility and common sense at the right time, as evidenced by their recent decision to withdraw troops from Yemen to the great disappointment of Saudi Arabia.