The latest Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque have prompted regional and international outrage. Though international condemnation of Israeli actions in the occupied territories is not something new, the Arab outrage was surprising. Last week, the United Arab Emirates, along with Bahrain, and Morocco denounced the Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque though they have just signed their normalization treaties with Israel. The question is: Why did the UAE condemn the actions of it is new stratgiec partner in the MENA region?
We can not have a straightforward answer to this question, but what is highly agreed upon, especially in Israeli media outlets, is that the UAE was sending a message to the US, not Israel. Since the onset of the Ukrainian war, the Gulf states seemed less interested in cooperating with the US. Up to the present time, the UAE avoids condemning the so-called Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yet, Abu Dhabi’s action is understandable given it is close ties with Russia. Additionally, this is not the case for the UAE only, but for many other Arab states who fear Russia’s outrage.
Frankly speaking, the main issue is not Israel, but the US. It is worthy to note that the UAE and the US are not on good terms. Months ago, the US pressured the UAE to put an end to any military agreements with China, especially those that aimed at facilitating Beijing’s military presence in Abu Dhabi. The Biden administration is on bad terms with Saudi Arabia as well.
“Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have chilled during the Biden administration over American policy in the Gulf region. Issues include the revival of the Iran nuclear deal; lack of US support for Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war and its refusal to add Houthis to its list of terrorist groups; US help with a Saudi civilian nuclear program; and legal immunity for Prince Mohammed, who is facing lawsuits over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit-team in its Istanbul consulate four years ago,” Edward Helmore, a reporter at the Guardian says.
Hence, it has become clear that the Gulf condemnation of the Israeli attacks was aimed at bullying the US, not Israel. Though Israel is definitely affected by Arab condemnations, the Gulf actions are more likely to hurt US interests, not Tel Aviv only. In other words, the Gulf states are trying to place a noose around Washington’s neck. They seized the opportunity to put their conditions at the negotiating table.
“The UAE strongly condemned today Israeli forces’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which resulted in the injury of a number of civilians,” the Gulf state’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it “underscored the need for self-restraint and protection for worshipers.”
The statement said it “stressed the UAE’s position that the Israeli authorities should respect the right of Palestinians to practice their religious rites and halt any practices that violate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Now it is the suitable time for the US to revisit it is policies toward the Gulf states and the Middle East. The fact that many states insisted on keeping their support for Russia is a potent reminder to the US that it can not ignore the interests of it is old allies. This is not to say, however, that the UAE will suddenly abandon the US.
Truth to be told, the Gulf countries are well aware that the US is still the dominant power in the international system. Yet they are seizing the ongoing chaos in Europe to secure their prolonged interests, especially in times of US foreign policy fiasco in the Arab world.