The delegation included Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA Director William Burns and Climate Ambassador John Kerry. It marks the highest-level public visit to the oil-rich capital, Abu Dhabi, by officials from the Biden administration.
The United Arab Emirates has named Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as its new president following the death of his half-brother last Friday. Since Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered a stroke almost a decade ago, Sheikh Mohammed has served as the country’s de facto ruler and shaped the country’s foreign policy.
A group of presidents and prime ministers descended on the desert’s Sheikhdam over the weekend to pay tribute to the late Sheikh Khalifa, praise Sheikh Mohammed and strengthen ties, signaling Abu Dhabi’s influence in the western and Arab capitals. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were the first European leaders to visit the UAE capital.
Before leaving for Abu Dhabi, Harris said he was traveling on behalf of President Joe Biden to mourn the death of the long-sick Sheikh Khalifa and to strengthen America’s vital ties with the United Arab Emirates.
“The United States attaches great importance to the strength of our relationship and partnership with the United Arab Emirates,” Harris told reporters. “We are going there to express our condolences but as an expression of our commitment to that relationship.”
Blinken made his first touch in Abu Dhabi before negotiating with his Emirati counterpart. Officials were vague about the agenda, but were widely expected to address the UAE’s long-standing frustration with American security in the region, as well as tensions between countries over Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, has come under intense American pressure to avoid Russia and to pump more oil to stabilize the fuel market as Europe seeks to rid itself of Russian crude oil.
But the UAE is a major Russian trading partner and a member of the so-called OPEC Plus agreement, of which Russia is a key member. The emirates have rejected the American claim – at the root of the resistance is a clear feeling that despite the continued military presence across the Arabian Peninsula, the United States is no longer a reliable partner.
Since taking office, Biden has labeled Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels as terrorists who have fired missiles and drones at the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and are trying to revive Tehran’s shattered nuclear deal with world powers. Encourage Iran and its proxies.
The abrupt withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan last summer and the long-term foreign policy move towards China from the Middle East have raised concerns among Gulf Arabs. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has suspended the sale of an F-35 fighter jet to the United Arab Emirates with the consent of former President Donald Trump.
Trump scrapped Iran’s nuclear deal and strongly indulged UAE and Saudi officials.
Earlier this spring, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, described allies going through a “stress test.”