Since its navy intervention within the Syrian civil struggle in September 2015, one in every of Russia’s main international coverage objectives has been to persuade Gulf Arab monarchies to come back to phrases with the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the reacceptance of its “legitimacy”.
A bunch of developments in Gulf-Syrian relations throughout the previous few years, most not too long ago al-Assad’s go to to the United Arab Emirates, point out that this Russian technique has been fairly profitable.
The UAE, which reopened its embassy in Syria in December 2018, and despatched its international minister to Damascus in November final 12 months, is the primary Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) actor working to speed up the Syrian regime’s reintegration into the Arab world’s diplomatic fold, following years of relative isolation within the area.
The UAE’s efforts to return Syria to the Arab League level to a rising alignment between Abu Dhabi and the Kremlin that’s significantly unsettling to Washington, particularly inside the context of the continuing Russia-Ukraine struggle, during which the West has didn’t convey the UAE on board with worldwide efforts to squeeze Russia.
The important thing to understanding this burgeoning relationship, and the UAE’s openness to hotter relations with al-Assad, is a shared antipathy to political Islam and pro-democracy actions within the area.
“The UAE imaginative and prescient for the area, in opposing each Muslim populism and democracy, appears an terrible lot extra like Putin’s imaginative and prescient than it does Washington’s, so it’s pure that the UAE is hedging its US entanglements by maintaining on the great facet of Russia and its shoppers,” stated Juan Cole, professor of historical past on the College of Michigan, in an interview with Al Jazeera.
For the UAE’s de facto chief, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Arab Spring revolutions have been a risk, and one which wanted to be rolled again.
“Assad, as a strongman against the Muslim Brotherhood, appears on this context very very similar to Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whom the UAE additionally helps … Al-Assad’s Baath Social gathering has taken the neoliberal street and doesn’t pose an ideological risk to the Gulf any longer,” added Cole.
The UAE is now a lot additional away from Washington and London’s orbits of geopolitical affect in contrast with earlier factors in fashionable historical past. The expansion of relations between the UAE and Russia, in addition to China and India, has been central to Abu Dhabi’s success in diversifying its world partnerships whereas gaining larger autonomy from its Western companions in an more and more multipolar world.
The UAE has not been afraid to assist Russia’s positions on points it sees eye to eye with Moscow, and disagrees with Washington. The UAE’s response to the struggle in Ukraine underscores how far Abu Dhabi has come when it comes to gaining larger autonomy from the West.
But, for all of the tensions which have been brewing between the UAE and the Biden administration, it could be incorrect to conclude that Abu Dhabi intends to stroll away from its extraordinarily shut partnership with the US. Finally, Washington, not Moscow, is the UAE’s safety guarantor, underscored by the US’s position in defending the Gulf Arab nation from Houthi missile and drone assaults earlier this 12 months.
“Abu Dhabi views Washington as a strategic precedence, it’s an irreplaceable relationship,” defined Monica Marks, an assistant professor of Center East politics at New York College, Abu Dhabi. “I don’t suppose [the Emiratis] try to exchange it, however they’re making an attempt to diversify their portfolio as self beneficially as doable to place ahead what they see as their very own pursuits.”
Due to the normalisation of relations with Israel, amongst different elements, the UAE has an amazing quantity of leverage in Washington. That clout will possible allow it to proceed carefully aligning with Russia in relation to Syria, Libya, and different delicate recordsdata within the Arab world, whereas additionally remaining a rustic the place Russian oligarchs can park their wealth as Western sanctions chew, with out worrying about main hurt being performed to US-Emirati relations.
US-UAE ties are deep sufficient that the Biden administration will almost definitely not try to significantly downgrade the 2 international locations’ partnership, regardless of Abu Dhabi’s rising ties to al-Assad and Putin.
“In case you pay attention carefully to some previous American authorities officers, they view the UAE as a mannequin authorities that they’d prefer to see the remainder of the Arab world reproduce,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Heart for Center East Research on the College of Denver, informed Al Jazeera.
“[The Emiratis] purchase American arms they usually have a peace treaty with Israel. They’ve this liberal veneer which retains public opinion considerably glad in order that the connection [with the US] can go ahead. They’ve this Ministry of Tolerance [and Coexistence], which is a public relations train,” stated Hashemi.
“Once you put all of it collectively there are such a lot of overlapping pursuits, and so many influential voices inside the US that need this relationship to proceed, so the opportunity of any sanctions directed on the UAE over [al-Assad’s visit] is simply inconceivable.”