Why is the UAE fighting against us?

Mohamed O Ibrahim*

Despite being geographically distant, Sudan and the Emirates have had highly intertwined and specific political, military, economic and social relations. The relationship rapidly expanded after Britain granted the autonomous tribal protectorates known as the Trucial Sheikhdoms, the right to establish their own states to be governed by their own tribal sheikhs.

The UAE was formed through a careful union of several sheikhdoms, led by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest sheikhdom.

Immediately after the declaration of formation of the new state, a special relationship was established between the UAE and Sudan. Sudan was one of the very first countries to recognize the new union, and the former Sudanese President Jaafar Numeiri was the first foreign president to set foot in Abu Dhabi where he was received with an affectionate celebration. In reciprocity, Khartoum was the first destination of state visit by the new Emirati President after assuming power.

Sudan’s recognition of the UAE’s independence is significant, especially when compared to Saudi Arabia’s reluctance to recognize it for many years.

There are still some unresolved border disputes between the two countries, being remnants of the short Buraimi war between Saudi Arabia and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the hot summer of 1952. That brief war left scars and traces resisted healing and erasing for more than 70 years awaiting a decisive conflict. This war has had lasting effects on the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf.

President Zayed’s visit to Sudan resulted in a number of cooperative protocols and agreements which brought hundreds of Sudanese experts, military and civil servants, followed by tens of thousands in the following years to assist in building the new state, literally, from scratch by writing its constitution, drafting its laws, managing its administrative and services facilities, and most importantly, building and training its military and regulatory apparatus.

One good example of that deep cooperation is that former President Omar Albashir served as a high-ranking officer in the Emirati army while on loan from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) for years, and this was a common occurrence in course of the two countries relations.

This close political relationship allowed for a high level of mutual influence and potential security and intelligence penetration. However, media coverage of the turbulent episodes between the two countries was limited due to the strong channels of communication between their relevant agencies.

During Omar Albashir’s presidency, the relationship faced several political obstacles. Some were overcome, while others ultimately led to the downfall of Albashir’s government. The recent war and injustices against Sudan by the UAE can be attributed principally to some internal factors within the state apparatus of the UAE:

1- Anti-Islamism and revenge-seeking stance against the political Islam, which is perceived to be a vital matter for all the Arab Gulf states except for Qatar, where the present and the future of their governing regime based on history tells that these Sheikhdoms have reached their imminent end of history according to the Khaldunian interpretation of the lives of Arab, Bedouin, and tribal states in their third generation.

2- The UAE is facing a mammoth task of attending to enormous internal entitlements relating to the system of government, the state of the union, class, social and economic disparities. The regime is trying to avoid these entitlements with a package of temporary tricks, including the tendency towards extreme secularism, directed school curricula, and huge media bubbles that produce everything except for what approaches the legitimacy of authority, and an apparatus of intermingled laws that prevent free opinion and thinking in addition to fighting Islamic trends as a cover for fighting the tendency towards religiosity itself.

3- The UAE is attempting to escape internal and regional problems, such as border disputes with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a strained relationship with Oman and Qatar that can explode when a conducive historical moment arrives. By exporting conflicts abroad, the UAE can distract from internal differences and threaten local stability.

The intermittent exportation of internal conflicts could also serve as bad examples for the political differences. Using the state-owned massive media machine to portray the examples of the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Sudan, which are essentially Emirati wars, may also assist in curbing the local citizenry political and civil rights aspirations.

4- The pursuit of activist and provocative foreign policy, and the temptation to influence international politics as a display of the symptoms of the so-called small country syndrome.

5- Serving the Israeli American policy in the region and trying to establish a new platform for the collective Pan-Arab decision-making that would accommodate Israel at the expense of the Palestinian rights.


A Sudanese columnist and political commentator, Twitter @moibrhim

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming essay about the war and prospects of peace in Sudan

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