A new era in the US-UAE relationship

The White House meeting reflects a clear shift in tone from the Obama years

US president Donald Trump greets Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, at the White House in Washington, DC. Aaron Bernstein / Bloomberg News
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and other UAE officials to the United States, highlights the strategic ties the two countries have built over time. But it also signals a shift in the mood music coming out of Washington – a change that, as our columnists explain on the page opposite, will be very welcome in Abu Dhabi and in capitals around the Gulf.

There has been, without doubt, a warming of relations between the Gulf states and the US since Donald Trump took office. The recent visit of Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington reflected the optimism brought about by the Trump presidency, and was in marked contrast to the aloofness that characterised the Obama administration in the post-Arab Spring years.

The visit of Sheikh Mohammed similarly built on that and both are preparing the ground for the historic visit of Mr Trump to Saudi Arabia – a trip that underlines how the political landscape is changing. The White House has recently expressed its desire to check the intentions of Iran, reflecting the prevailing sentiment in the Gulf that Tehran’s interactions in the region are always hostile and only seek to destabilise and disrupt.

The timing is crucial. The non-interventionist stance of the Obama administration deeply worried the Gulf states, and what was perceived in the region as a cosying up to Iran was viewed with barely disguised alarm. Now, with Mr Trump in the White House, the possibility of a new relationship seems possible.

The UAE intends to be at the forefront of that. The meeting of the Crown Prince with Mr Trump conveys the pivotal role of the UAE in the Gulf and in the wider region – a key Arab partner with the military strength and economic prosperity to push through a robust counter-terrorism strategy.

The forthcoming US-Saudi summit in Riyadh, a US-GCC summit and an Arab-Islamic-American summit will write the tunes of the future of the region, sending out a clear message to the international community.

Strong relations between the Gulf and the US will bring benefits across the region. A robust US-UAE partnership will be at the heart of that.