United Arab Emirates–United States relations

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Emirati-American relations
Map indicating locations of United Arab Emirates and USA

United Arab Emirates

United States
Diplomatic mission
United Arab Emirates Embassy, Washington D.C.United States Embassy, Abu Dhabi
Ambassador Yousef Al OtaibaAmbassador John Rakolta

United Arab Emirates–United States relations are bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. The United Arab Emirates has been described as the United State's best counter-terrorism ally in the Gulf by Richard A. Clarke, the US national security advisor and counter-terrorism expert. In terms of defense, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces has been nicknamed "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces Generals and US secretary of defense James Mattis for its active role against extremists in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates also hosts the only United States border preclearance in the Middle East.

Diplomatic Relations

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington DC, May 2017
US embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The United States was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE and has had an ambassador resident in the UAE since 1974. The two countries have enjoyed friendly relations with each other and have developed strong government-to-government ties including a close security cooperation. The quality of U.S.-UAE relations increased dramatically as a result of the U.S.-led coalition's campaign to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. UAE ports host more U.S. Navy ships than any port outside the U.S.

According to former US ambassador to the UAE Richard G. Olson, “It was well known that if you needed something done in the Middle East, the Emiratis would do it.”[1]

Leading the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC is Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, who presented his credentials in July 2008.

In December 2018, the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus to restore ties with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – a step that the UAE took against the wishes of the US. In January 2019, the UAE hosted a Syrian trade delegation that was led by a businessman, who was on US Treasury sanctions list since 2011.[2]

Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

On January 15, 2009, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation that enhances international standards of nuclear non-proliferation.[3]

President Barack Obama subsequently endorsed the agreement and submitted it to Congress on May 20, 2009 for the mandatory 90-day review.[4] After a hearing on Capitol Hill in July 2009, leaders of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees issued resolutions supporting the US-UAE nuclear cooperation agreement."[5]


U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba exchange diplomatic notes to bring the Agreement for Peaceful Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation into force. (17 December 2009)

The United States maintains three military bases in the United Arab Emirates. The three bases are Al Dhafra Air Base, Al Minhad Air Base, and the Fujairah Naval Base. A major military hospital modeled on the major American medical facility in Germany, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, is also being built in the UAE which will be operated by the United States Army, United States Department of Defense, and the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.[6]

According to Richard A. Clarke, then US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism and a contributor in the 9/11 Commission Report, the UAE is the United States best counter-terrorism ally in the Gulf.[7] According to previous US ambassador to UAE Richard G. Olson, Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan structured the UAE Armed forces to be closely aligned with the US military.[8]

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces is the only Arab country to commit military troops for humanitarian aid missions in the US-led War in Afghanistan. The UAE military is nicknamed as "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces Generals and specifically by former US defense secretary James Mattis due to its active and effective military role, particularly in the War on Terrorism, despite its small active personnel.[9] Mattis has also called the UAE led 2016 Battle of Mukalla operation a model for American troops, referencing how the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces liberated the port of Mukalla from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula forces in 36 hours after being held by AQAP for more than a year.[10] Prior to joining the Trump administration, Mattis received permission from the US military after retiring from the Marine Corps to work as a military adviser to the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.[11]

The United Arab Armed Forces also receive defense advice from two former top US military commanders, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General John R. Allen, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force.[1]

Through a partnership with the United States, the United Arab Emirates has spearheaded an active role against fighting AQAP and ISIL-YP in Yemen.[12] On 26 February 2019, US president Donald Trump publicly thanked the United Arab Emirates on his Twitter for the UAE's effort in rescuing Danny Burch, a US citizen who was held in captivity for 18 months by militants in Yemen.[13]

United States border pre-clearance

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 2013

The United Arab Emirates is one of the few countries and the only one in the Middle East which has a US border pre-clearance that are staffed and operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, allowing travelers from Abu Dhabi International Airport to reach the United States as domestic US travelers. The U.S. customs pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport officially opened on January 26, 2014.[14] U.S. customs pre-clearance is currently being planned at Dubai International Airport.[15]


According to Reuters, US intelligence operatives from the National Security Agency (NSA) helped the United Arab Emirates National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) engage in surveillance of terrorists, other governments, militants, human rights activists, and dissidents in a collaborative project called Project Raven. The project helped break up an ISIS network within the Emirates as well as assess if other attacks were imminent after the ISIS inspired Murder of Ibolya Ryan in Abu Dhabi. According to Lori Stroud, one of the former NSA intelligence analysts, Americans were also targeted for surveillance.[16] The New York Times reported that as a result, Mozilla rejected Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter – linked to Project Raven – from administering online website security certificates.[17]

The United States Central Intelligence Agency does not gather human intelligence about the UAE as it does on almost every other nation where the United States has significant interests.[18]

Sister-Twinning cities

See also


  1. ^ a b D. Kirkpatrick, David (2 June 2019). "The Most Powerful Arab Ruler Isn't M.B.S. It's M.B.Z." The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Syrian businessman on US sanctions list hosted by UAE". Associated Press. 2019-01-22. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  3. ^ "The United Arab Emirates and the United States Sign Bilateral Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Energy Cooperation". www.uae-embassy.org. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-02.
  4. ^ White House: Office of the Press Secretary Press Release
  5. ^ House Committee on Foreign Affairs, July 14, 2009 Archived October 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Sanderson, Daniel (18 February 2019). "UAE and US to build major military hospital in Abu Dhabi".
  7. ^ "9/11 Commission Report" (PDF). 9/11 Commission Report. p. 138.
  8. ^ "Scenesetter for the President's meeting with Shaykh Mohammed Bin Zayed". WikiLeaks. 31 August 2009. WikiLeaks cable: 09ABUDHABI862. Retrieved 17 November 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "In the UAE, the United States has a quiet, potent ally nicknamed 'Little Sparta'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  10. ^ "US-UAE counter-terrorism operations on the rise in Yemen". The National. 15 March 2018.
  11. ^ "First on CNN: Mattis advised UAE military before joining Trump administration". CNN. 2 August 2017.
  12. ^ Ardemagni, Eleonora (28 July 2016). "Uae's military priorities in Yemen: Counterterrorism and the South". .ispionline.it.
  13. ^ "Donald Trump thanks UAE for aiding in Yemen hostage release". The National. 26 February 2019.
  14. ^ "US Customs pre-clearance facility opens in UAE". Yahoo! News Philippines. January 28, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  15. ^ "US border pre-clearance facility planned in Dubai". Yahoo! News Philippines. February 15, 2014. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  16. ^ Inside the UAE’s secret hacking team of American mercenaries, Reuters, 30 Jan 2019
  17. ^ "Mozilla Blocks UAE Bid to Become an Internet Security Guardian After Hacking Reports". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Why the CIA dosent spy on the UAE". Reuters. 26 August 2019.
  19. ^ Abu Dhabi, Houston to sign 'Sister City' pact UAE – The Official Web Site – News Archived 31 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Uaeinteract.com. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  20. ^ Sister Cities Agreement between Detroit and Dubai Archived 22 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine, 28 September 2003.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State website https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5444.htm#relations.

External links

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