Abu Dhabi (Caasimada Online) – Tensions are brewing in the Middle East as a power struggle unfolds between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Unveiling a tangle of geopolitical ambitions, economic frictions, and divergent regional policies, these strained relations between the two dominant Gulf powers echo far beyond their borders.
The Wall Street Journal recently disclosed a threatening discourse by the Saudi Crown Prince to journalists in an off-the-record briefing last December.
He cautioned the UAE of potential sanctions and, in doing so, underscored the growing rift between himself and his Emirati counterpart.
“They will see what I can do,” he ominously stated. This came after the UAE’s perceived undermining of Saudi Arabia’s regional standing.
Prince Mohammed’s threat brings to mind the harsh diplomatic and economic embargo Saudi Arabia placed on Qatar in 2017, with the support of the UAE and Bahrain.
The sanctions, lasting for over three years, were only lifted in 2021. During the private briefing, the Crown Prince alluded to this situation, warning that any punitive measures against the UAE could exceed those applied to Qatar.
A silent war over dominance
The two leaders have reportedly not spoken for over six months, indicating an intense power struggle in the Gulf region.
This feud reflects a broader contest for geopolitical and economic influence, particularly in the global oil market.
A shift in the US policy, leading to reduced regional involvement, has further exacerbated these dynamics. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also expanding their reach to Russia and China.
US officials are increasingly anxious over these growing tensions, fearing potential setbacks to regional security efforts.
The strained relations could obstruct initiatives for a unified stance against Iran, the resolution of the Yemen conflict, and the expansion of Israel’s diplomatic relations with Muslim countries.
Divergent interests in Yemen and Sudan and disagreements over global oil prices have led to increased friction between the two powers.
In addition, Saudi Arabia’s recent diplomatic rapprochement with Iran has left the UAE taken aback.
Saudi Arabia’s economic ambitions also add another layer to this complex situation.
The kingdom’s drive to diversify its economy and lessen its dependence on oil brings it into direct competition with the UAE.
The crown prince’s aim to make Riyadh a regional headquarters for various industries challenges Dubai’s standing as the commercial hub of the Middle East.
OPEC discord and unresolved disputes
The dispute that spilled over into an OPEC meeting last October clearly indicated the growing tension.
The UAE voiced frustration over what it perceived as Saudi dominance, even threatening to withdraw from the organization.
The Biden administration attempted to mediate, organizing a meeting in May between Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security advisor, and the Emirati president’s younger brother.
However, sources suggest that the Saudi Crown Prince expressed his distrust towards the UAE following the meeting, effectively halting any policy changes towards the Emirati nation.
With such high stakes at play, the world watches anxiously as this tale of power and politics unfolds in the Middle East.