UAE, US sign defence accord ahead of Riyadh summit
London- The United Arab Emirates and the United States signed a defence cooperation deal ahead of the Arab-Islamic-US summit in Riyadh.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on May 15 met in Washington with US President Donald Trump. The two leaders reiterated the close strategic relations shared by their countries and pledged to deepen ties.
Trump called Sheikh Mohammed a “very special person” who loves his country and the United States. The Abu Dhabi crown prince underscored the United States’ role in “strengthening regional stability,” particularly with Trump’s efforts to explore paths to resolving the Arab- Israeli conflict and the fight against global terrorism.
They also discussed “mutual concerns and responses” to Iran’s destabilising regional activities. Sheikh Mohammed stressed the need for greater efforts to bring “peace and stability” to Syria, Yemen and Libya and the humanitarian challenges that have arisen in those countries.
Sheikh Mohammed, who is also deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, met with US Secretary of Defence James Mattis and signed a defence cooperation agreement. Discussions centred on joint operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Shabab terror network in Africa and the Islamic State.
Mattis said the defence agreement would involve the two countries closely collaborating on wide-ranging threats over a 15-year period.
“The agreement marks a new chapter in our partnership and reflects the breadth and depth of our on-going cooperation, which is underpinned by the mutual respect we share for the professionalism and efficacy of our armed forces,” Mattis said in a statement.
A few days before the crown prince’s meeting with Trump, the US State Department approved the potential sale of $2 billion in Patriot missile systems to the UAE.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the UAE government requested 60 Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles and 100 Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical missiles. The statement added that the sale would cover missile canisters, tools, test equipment, support equipment, publications, technical documentation and spare and repair parts and programme-support services and would require the deployment of additional contractor representatives to the UAE.
The defence agreement replaces a 1994 accord and better reflects “the broad range of military-to-military cooperation that the UAE and US enjoy today,” Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said, adding that it “provides the US military with the ability to more seamlessly respond to a range of scenarios in and around the UAE, if necessary.”
The United Arab Emirates is one of Washington’s most important regional allies with security, defence and economic ties dating back decades. The United States views the UAE as a reliable and effective military partner. In 2014, Mattis nicknamed the UAE “Little Sparta” in tribute to its military’s achievements.
The Emirates is the United States’ largest regional export market, with exports reaching $22 billion in 2016. Besides the UAE being a large investor in the United States for more than 30 years, there are more than 1,500 US firms operating in the UAE, with many designating the Emirates as their regional headquarters.
Sheikh Mohammed had separate meetings with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Chairman Bob Corker and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Arab-Islamic-US summit is viewed as an opportunity by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the United States to reaffirm long-standing ties that were tested during the Obama administration. Gulf Arab leaders then viewed the United States pivoting towards Iran, particularly after Washington signed a nuclear deal with Tehran, which GCC leaders said would compromise regional security and empowered the Islamic Republic to continue destabilising activities in the Gulf and beyond.
Increased military assistance by the United States to its allies in the Middle East, who felt abandoned by the hands-off policy of former US President Barack Obama, is a key element of the White House plan.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with Trump in Washington in March and news reports before Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia said the countries were working on a series of US arms sales to the kingdom that run to more than $100 billion. Saudi Arabia might spend $300 billion on US weaponry in the coming decade, the reports said.