The Wall Street Journal reported that the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, gathered local journalists in Riyadh, in a rare informal briefing, in December 2022, and delivered a stunning message, in which he said that “the United Arab Emirates is an ally of Saudi Arabia, for decades, has stabbed us in the back”.
The Saudi Crown prince added, according to people who were at the meeting, “I will show them what I can do”.
The Wall Street Journal also indicated that the dispute between the Saudi Crown Prince and the President of UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan reflects a competition over geopolitical and economic power in the Middle East and global oil markets.
The two royals, who spent nearly a decade rising to the top of the Arab world, are now competing over who controls the ball in the Middle East, as the role of the United States has become diminished.
The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials as saying that they are concerned that the Gulf rivalry may make it difficult to create a unified security coalition to confront Iran, end the eight-year-old war in Yemen, and expand diplomatic relations between Israel and Islamic countries.
Likewise, the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior US official in the administration of President Joe Biden, as saying, “These are two very ambitious people who want to be major players in the region and the favorite players,” adding that “on some level, they are still cooperating”.
”Now, neither of them seems comfortable with the other competing with him… In general, it’s not beneficial for us to be adversaries”.
Bin Salman hasn’t spoken to bin Zayed for more than six months,” according to sources close to them.
Likewise, the two countries have become increasingly economic competitors, which indicated that as part of bin Salman’s plans to end Saudi Arabia’s economic dependence on oil, as he is pushing companies to move their regional headquarters to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, instead of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Bin Salman is also launching plans to establish technology centers, attract more tourists and develop logistical hubs that would compete with the UAE’s position as a trade center in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia plans to build a pipeline from the kingdom to the Arabian Sea through the Yemeni governorate of Hadramout, with a sea port in its regional capital, Mukalla.
The relations between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have divergent interests in Yemen, and the efforts made to end the conflict there, and the Emirati frustration with Saudi pressure, undermined this relationship, in addition to the fact that the increase in international oil prices also creates new divisions in OPEC.
Bin Zayed bypassed the Arab summit in which Bin Salman invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to Riyadh, and didn’t comment on the Arab League’s vote in May to allow Syria to return to the group last May.
The Saudi Crown prince himself was absent when Bin Zayed met Arab leaders at a hastily arranged regional summit in the Emirates last February.
In addition, to show the depth of the roots of this dispute between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal indicated that the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, was disturbed by Saudi hegemony over the Arabian Peninsula, and King Faisal, who was then in Saudi Arabia, refused to recognize his neighbor in the Gulf for years, seeking influence in various regional disputes.
On the other hand, and in separate statements, in response to what was reported in Wall Street Journal, an official speaking on behalf of the Emirati government said, “The UAE is a close regional partner to Saudi Arabia, and our policies converge on a wide range of issues of common concern,” stressing that “their strategic partnership is based on the same Objectives and vision for regional prosperity, security and stability”.