Blinken Assures UAE Leader of US Defence Help Over Houthi Attacks, Iran

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
March 30, 2022 Updated: March 30, 2022

RABAT—U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to assure Gulf monarchies on Tuesday that Washington is determined to help them fend off attacks from the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen.

Blinken met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, in Morocco as part of a trip to the Middle East and North Africa.

Washington’s Arab allies chafe at what they see as declining U.S. commitment to security in their region in the face of Iranian involvement in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon which has nudged them into common cause with former arch-foe Israel.

Unusually for a U.S. secretary of state, Blinken’s trip did not include any stops in Gulf monarchies or talks with Saudi officials.

“We have real challenges to confront together, in the region and beyond,” Blinken said at the start of the meeting with Sheikh Mohammed at the crown prince’s private residence in Rabat.

The first challenge Blinken cited was a series of missile attacks by the Houthis against the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“We’re determined to do everything we can to help you defend yourselves effectively against that,” Blinken said, adding that he would also consult the Emirati leader on attempts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and strengthening collective security regarding Iran.

Sheikh Mohammed said the meeting was “a very important opportunity” and “I’m sure we have a lot to talk about, especially our bilateral relationship.”

Gulf states have for years been frustrated at what they see as U.S. inaction in confronting Iran’s role in the region, but their concerns have grown since Joe Biden became president 14 months ago.

They are worried about the impact of a potential new nuclear deal with Iran and annoyed that Washington has ended its support for their war in Yemen, put new conditions on weapons sales to Gulf states, and criticised their human rights records.

Blinken attended a summit between Israel and some Arab countries at the weekend, including the UAE and Morocco.

Ukraine Assistance

Washington wants its Arab allies to take a stronger stance against Russia over its assault on Ukraine by voting with the United States in the United Nations, joining Western sanctions or even sending security assistance to Ukraine.

The UAE abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote on Ukraine last month and Morocco did not show up for a general assembly vote. The UAE and Saudi Arabia both have increasingly important energy ties with Russia.

“Energy is coming back as a major component of many of the Middle East and, indeed, world discussions. What people thought was the death of fossil fuels is, I think, a little bit premature,” senior Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday.

Gulf states have for years been frustrated at what they see as U.S. inaction in confronting Iran’s role in the region, but their concerns have grown since Joe Biden became president 14 months ago.

They are worried about the impact of a potential new nuclear deal with Iranian regime and annoyed that Washington has ended its support for their war in Yemen, put new conditions on weapons sales to Gulf states, and criticised their human rights records.

Blinken is expected to reassure Sheikh Mohammed of Washington’s commitment to stopping Iranian regime obtaining a nuclear weapon amid a series of missile attacks by the Tehran-backed Houthi group in Yemen.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, concerned that Washington’s push for a deal over Iran’s nuclear programme will not tackle its development of missiles or the role of its regional proxies, have moved to engage with Tehran directly.

“We need to turn the page… reaching out to various friends, of course, but adversaries also,” said Gargash, who was speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

By Humeyra Pamuk

Reuters