The UAE and its allies will try to leverage their relationship with the US and Israel to counter Turkey's influence in the region.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mohammad Shtayyeh claimed September 15, 2020, would be a "black day in the history of Arab nations."
The day he speaks of is the official signing by the UAE and Bahrain of the Trump-brokered treaties that will normalise relations between the two Gulf states and Israel.
Though of course, the Palestinian people are correct to see this as a sign of betrayal, the reality is that they never had friends in the UAE or Bahrain, to begin with.
I’m not merely referencing that the UAE has been an informal ‘covert’ ally of Israel for decades now, but rather a more grand general reality.
If you strip away the layers of mutually beneficial propaganda about an ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’, you’ll find very simply that the UAE and Israel, both on the level of states and the forces that rule such states, have far too much in common not to be allies.
To put it more starkly: the UAE, an autocratic petrostate that racially oppresses its mostly South Asian workforce and caters to the Western super-rich, has more in common with the ethnocratic state of Israel than it has with Palestinians.
One of the dynamics to emerge out of the Arab Spring era is a regional dynamic that pits what might be called the UAE-Saudi axis against Turkey. If one looks around the region, one can easily see different ‘fronts’ on which the UAE-Saudi axis and Turkey have clashed.
For reasons that would require a separate article to do it justice, Turkey has tended to support the democratic forces that arose out of the Arab spring – particularly groups associated with the ‘Islamic democracy’ of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE-Saudi monarchies, on the other hand, see in the nascent democracies in the region, whether in Egypt or Yemen or Libya, only traces of their future demise. They have thus sought to crush democratic forces wherever possible.
The first and perhaps most volatile example of this is the Syrian Civil War, where, in the early stages of the conflict, Turkey and the UAE were technically on the same side but actually had very different priorities.
Turkey and Qatar were willing to arm and aid pro-democracy opposition affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the UAE and Saudi catastrophically refusing to do so.
To cut several long stories short, the relationship between the UAE and Turkey on the ground on Syria has deteriorated to the point that when, earlier this month, the Assad regime and Russia began to attack Turkish-backed opposition forces in Idlib, it emerged that the UAE had bribed Assad into doing so.
Though the move was unsuccessful, with Turkey doubling down its support for Idlib, the prize for Assad has been the UAE attempting to rehabilitate the genocidal monster within the Arab League and the world.
The main motivation behind this move against Turkey by the UAE was retaliation for Turkey’s impressive support for Qatar during a time when the UAE-Saudi axis waged a blockade against the country.
The demands made on Qatar by Saudi and the UAE amount to that country ceasing to support Brotherhood-affiliated democratic groups, whether directly or through its powerful Al Jazeera media network.
With Qatar refusing to bow to Saudi and the UAE, we now know that Saudi was on the verge of invading Qatar, it was a lack of support from Washington for such an incendiary move and Turkey’s decision to send its armed forces to Doha to protect the country that deterred the Saudi invasion. Again, the sinister machinations of the UAE-Saudi axis had been thwarted by Turkey.
Perhaps the last straw for the Emirates came in its humiliation in Libya. The UAE, along with its junior ally Abdel Fattah el Sisi, has been the number one sponsor of the anti-democratic fascist militias of warlord Haftar as they attempted to overthrow the Government of National Accord (GNA), the legitimate UN-recognised government of Libya.
The GNA contains Brotherhood-affiliated forces and envisions a democratic future for Libya. Thus, in the eyes of the UAE, emboldened by its support for the brutal military coup against Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, the first and only democratically-elected president in Egypt’s history (he was recognised as the legitimate president of Egypt by Turkey until his dying day), the GNA had to go.
With France and Russia supporting Haftar and the ever-spineless EU joining Trump in only rhetorically and meekly condemning the assault on the GNA, Turkey mobilised and lent military and political support to the GNA helping to repel Haftar's assault on Tripoli .
Haftar’s ragtag groups of Russian mercenaries, Salafi-jihadis and pro-Gaddafi militias – and thus their Emirati puppet masters – were forced into a humiliating defeat.
It’s not as though Turkey is acting here as some bastion of liberty in the region, but its more aggressive policies countering the UAE-Saudi axis followed their essentially open support for the failed 2016 coup against the elected government of Turkey. It’s no surprise then that Turkey wants to curtail the Emirates and its anti-democratic crusade.
But it’s not over yet. It’s after this catalogue of defeats at the hands of Turkey that the UAE has now decided to openly embrace Israel. So what exactly does this alliance bring to the table for the UAE?
One of the predominant pro-Israel narratives across the Western world is that Israel is a little island of Western civilisation amidst a sea of Arabo-Islamic barbarism. The UAE can thus now further pose as bastion of ‘western values’, attracting more support among powerful pro-Israel forces in the West for its various counterrevolutionary causes.
The UAE essentially wants to use the pull that Israel has over the West, especially the US, to demonise and delegitimise Turkey, while materially and geopolitically boosting its own capacities.
But we’ve already seen this backfire, with Israel, demonstrating its remarkable power and reach, vetoing the sale of F-35 stealth-capability fighter jets from the US to the UAE.
But by adding Bahrain into the mix, and with Saudi (a much more complex prospect, given the demographics of the country and the influence of the extremely anti-Israel Ulama) perhaps to follow, the UAE clearly believes that it is bolstering itself against not simply Turkey, but against the forces of democracy, liberty and progress that are its antithesis.
This is true of Palestinians struggling against Israeli occupation and annexation, Syrians struggling against Assad and Russia’s genocide, Libyans attempting to forge a peaceful future or Egyptians struggling against Sisi’s totalitarianism.
All of these forces run contrary to the interests of the UAE.
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