Headlines ignore the truth behind failed Typhoon deal

Many in the UK misunderstand the reason behind the UAE's decision not to buy its jets, writes Dr Salem Humaid.

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Western countries often react badly when other nations adopt an idea, policy or strategy that is contrary to their own worldview. Any violation of the line in the sand that the West has drawn is usually met with calls for regulation, intervention or worse. Meanwhile, the laws made by the West are often not observed by their own citizens.

The British media’s coverage of the suspension of the UAE’s deal to buy Typhoon fighter planes last month, fits neatly into this template.

The collapse of the deal attracted resentful, spiteful responses from Britain. In retaliation, its newspapers began to raise the issue of labour practices in this country, forgetting that the UAE remains an attractive port of call for many British workers. They also picked away at the issue of detainees held in this country’s jails for what they regarded as seemingly minor infringements of the law.

This dent to British pride was reported in The Daily Telegraph under the title “Britain’s ambitions in the Gulf suffer blow as UAE rejects Typhoon deal”.

The report, written by David Blair, the paper’s chief foreign correspondent, described “David Cameron’s ambition to revive Britain’s ties with the Gulf, involving 230 ministerial visits to the region since 2010” and how these were “in disarray after the UAE decided against a multi-billion pound deal to buy Typhoon fighters”.

However, the facts that caused the suspension of the deal are nothing to do with these other issues. Rather they relate to the Typhoon’s practical performance not being up to scratch during a series of air strikes on Libya in the final months of Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.

The postponement of the deal puts Britain into a difficult situation over similar agreements with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman, especially as some of those nations are still indignant over Britain’s position on many of the region’s problems, particularly the Syrian issue. In recent months, decisions made in the House of Commons have helped to prolong the rule of Bashar Al Assad and have emboldened Iran.

The attacks on the UAE’s labour rules and the rights of detainees, as named by British newspapers after the rejection of the deal, have astonished observers who wonder why these publications are concentrating on labour issues in the UAE, when far worse problems persist in other parts of the world. The UAE has allowed many human rights organisations to carry out investigations on the rights of labourers in this country. Generally the feedback from those visits has been good.

Separately, in an article written for the Huffington Post by Dayna Steele, an American business success strategist, and carrying the headline “All the World Is a Stage: Will the UAE Play a Part”, the writer tried to ridicule this country’s laws, asking why she was not allowed to hug her friend when she met her at Abu Dhabi airport. Later, she writes that whatever negative press this country attracts is “justified and inevitable”. She ends with this statement: “If the UAE wants to play on the worldwide stage as a glittering superstar, hardline Emiratis will have to follow the script the rest of the world has written.”

But why should it follow that script, when the narrative it is developing is doing just fine?

The UAE has passed laws to serve the rights of labourers, their religious beliefs and their right to move freely between emirates. These same laws prevent employers from asking labourers to work during the hottest hours of the summer months. These same laws also act to protect the welfare of workers.

Regarding the issue of detainees, the UAE has expressed its stance clearly. It has an established legal system that respects and supports privacy. It also respects the legal systems of other countries and does not seek to interfere in them.

It is worth noting that the UAE has never protested against Britain’s laws and has not campaigned for special favours for any Emirati who has violated laws outside this country.

Both the issue of the two British citizens who infringed the UAE’s law by showing affection in public and the case of the American youth who violated national security through a satirical film uploaded to YouTube were picked up by American and British newspapers and used to discredit this country.

Such reports did not mention the real stories behind their arrests and disregarded our judicial system and the red lines that exist in our society. These are the double standards that often exist in the West.

Dr Salem Humaid is an Emirati writer and chairman of Almezmaah studies and research centre