U.S. National Security Leaders Reportedly Headed To UAE With Vice President Harris

Topline

A pantheon of top U.S. national security officials will reportedly accompany Vice President Kamala Harris on a trip that the White House announced Saturday she will make to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, signaling a significant White House effort to ease rising tensions with the small, oil-rich Persian Gulf state after the death of its longtime leader.

Key Facts

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA director Bill Burns and the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Michael Kurilla, among others, will travel to the UAE, according to Axios, following the death Friday of UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who led the country since 2004 and forged close ties with the United States.

His half-brother, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was swiftly named the country’s new president, but the change appears largely ceremonial since Mohamed began serving as de facto leader after Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014.

Crucial Quote

“In addition to honoring the memory and the legacy of Sheikh Khalifa, the Vice President will underscore the strength of the partnership between our countries and our desire to further deepen our ties in the coming months and years,” the White House said in a statement.

Key Background

The visit by such a high-ranking group of U.S. officials to a nation of fewer than 10 million people underlines its strategic importance to the U.S., and comes amid growing tensions between the longtime allies. The UAE has notably shied away from condemning Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, choosing to maintain a status quo relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, breaking with Western powers seeking to isolate Russia economically. UAE leaders have also expressed concerns recently about U.S. security commitments to partners in the Middle East. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the sluggish pace of a sale of American-made F-35 fighter jets and a thus far unsuccessful push from the UAE for the Biden Administration to label Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization highlight Emirati frustrations, according to Reuters. The U.S. and UAE have also clashed this year over oil, with the UAE refusing to ramp up production in response to a U.S. ban on the import of Russian oil.

Further Reading

Exclusive: Harris to lead U.S. delegation to UAE after Sheikh Khalifa’s death (Axios)

U.S. ties with Gulf partner UAE are being tested, envoy says (Reuters)

Biden rebuffed as US relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE hit new low (The Guardian)