Voices from the Arab press: New Russian-Emirati Partnership

A selection of stories from the Arab press this week.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin (seated, right) and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al- Nahyan (seated, left) attend a signing ceremony following talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 1, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin (seated, right) and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al- Nahyan (seated, left) attend a signing ceremony following talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 1, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 8
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow with Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The two leaders signed a declaration to launch a strategic partnership revolving around oil prices, trade ties and security cooperation.
This meeting marks an important milestone in bilateral relations between the two countries. Most symbolic was the timing of this summit, which came in the wake of Russia’s clash with Iran over the latter’s presence in Syria. The Kremlin already ordered all Iranian troops in Syria to immediately withdraw, as Russian forces begin preparing the Assad regime to take over areas once controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. This change in Russia’s foreign policy would not have been possible without the steadfast Saudi-Emirati commitment to curbing Iran’s involvement in the region. While Moscow and Tehran seemingly had synchronized policies in Syria, the Kremlin now publicly opposes Iran’s presence in the war-torn country.
As Moscow increasingly distances itself from Tehran, its ties with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are growing closer and closer. The recent memorandum on oil production signed between Putin and Prince al-Nahyan is a testament to this changing dynamic. Despite an OPEC-wide decrease in oil production agreed to last year in an effort to curb falling prices, both the Russian and Emirati governments are determined to increase output in their respective countries to stabilize the cost per barrel. Indeed, this may very well be the beginning of a new era.
Abdallah bin Bujad al-Oteibi
Asharq al-Awsat, London, June 7
Despite efforts by the Qatari media to portray the demonstrations in Jordan as a political revolt, these rallies are far from political. They were prompted by economic anxieties, as the unemployment rate in Jordan reached a record high of 18.4%.
I spent the last week in Jordan and met with representatives of both the government and the protesters. Despite what you might hear in the media, the Muslim Brotherhood does not stand behind these demonstrations, and what we are seeing in Jordan is far from what we witnessed during the Arab Spring. The Jordanian people simply want their government to provide more jobs, reduce the cost of basic goods and halt the implementation of a proposed tax plan.
The government isn’t disconnected from the people. This is why Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki submitted his resignation and called for a reevaluation of the proposed tax scheme. Jordan’s King Abdullah also monitored the situation closely, calling on the government to heed the public’s angry message.
It is also important to remember, especially amid the temporary unrest, that the Jordanian leadership is dealing with nearly impossible demands. The World Bank, for example, has refused to extend loans to the Jordanian government without reforms being made to the nation’s public spending and tax system. Support once afforded to the Jordanian people by Gulf states has also shrunk in recent years, as a result of declining oil prices.
Then there is the demographic burden. For several decades, Jordan absorbed the largest number of refugees – first from Palestine, then Iraq, and most recently from Syria.
Despite all of these challenges, the Jordanian government managed to foster a high level of development in the country. Jordan’s infrastructure – its roads, electricity system and sewage system – are among the most developed in the region. While Beirut’s residents experience power outages on a daily basis, residents of Amman enjoy a steady power supply.
The Jordanian public education system is among the best in the Arab world. Most Jordanian children receive free education and enroll in free colleges and universities.
Even the Jordanian health system is far better than its regional equivalents.
These are all incredible achievements. Surely, there is much more to be done to ease the lives of Jordan’s people. Luckily, Jordan’s biggest asset is its people and their determination to thrive.
Therefore, I can confidently say that despite its scant resources and financial troubles, the Jordanian government will overcome this period of unrest and continue to serve its people.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, June 6
Exactly one year ago this week, four Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – downgraded their diplomatic ties with Qatar in response to the latter’s support of terrorism in the region.
A year has passed since, and Qatar is still pursuing belligerent policies against the moderate forces in the Arab world. Doha has taken absolutely no action to address the complaints raised by its neighbors, and even increased its support for radical groups in the Middle East.
However, it has done one thing rather successfully: that is, bribe every possible country in the world to maintain full diplomatic relations with it.
Shortly after the boycott was announced, Qatar signed a $14 billion deal with France to construct a nationwide transportation system, including new trains and buses. This bought Doha the support of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Then, in an effort to appease Washington, Qatar signed a deal to buy F-15 fighter jets worth some $12b. from the United States. The timing of the agreement, again, revealed just how desperate the Qatari government is to convey an image of business as usual. Similar action was taken with Italy and Germany, with which Qatar signed deals to buy ships and tanks, respectively. Qatar also approached Russia to purchase antiaircraft missiles. The list goes on and on. In fact, anyone monitoring Qatar’s military deals might assume that the small country, consisting of barely three million people, is preparing for a war. But the truth is that these deals are nothing but Qatar’s way of guaranteeing support from world powers.
The Arab boycott on Doha has been so effective that Qatari authorities are aggressively trying to purchase anything on offer in the international market. This frenzy will continue so long as the Qatari government refuses to adhere to the demands of its neighbors. Qatar might not be lacking for money, but the Arab Gulf does not lack patience. It is Qatar that will eventually lose this battle.
Salman al-Dossary
Al Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, June 11
Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered preparations to begin increasing uranium enrichment at Iranian nuclear sites. Such a move stands in complete contradiction to what the Europeans, and even the Russians and the Chinese, are trying to achieve in the region – namely, the survival of the nuclear deal.
However, the Europeans have failed to understand the calculus employed by the mullahs in Tehran when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian leadership is currently facing one of its lowest levels of public support. Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is experiencing great difficulties in continuing its military operations abroad, most notably in Syria. In an effort to salvage his public image and the stability of his regime, Khamenei is interested in rallying the Iranian people around the flag. Together with his mullahs, he will do whatever it takes to bring a cataclysm upon his people just to ensure their subservience and acquiescence.
It is clear beyond any doubt that if Iran continues enriching uranium, other countries in the region will follow suit. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will all launch their own nuclear programs, in an effort to deter Iran from taking any action against them, as well as to maintain the delicate balance of power in the region.
The Iranian regime must be well aware of this, yet it persists in its efforts. Therefore, it remains clear that Khamenei is using belligerent rhetoric to galvanize the masses and position himself as Iran’s ultimate protector. He has already warned that any attempt to target the country’s nuclear facilities will be met with brute force.
Yet the Americans and Israelis have military capabilities that far exceed those of Iran, making it rather easy to foil Iran’s nuclear ambitions with a simple air strike. Here, too, Khamenei knows well that his plan will not work. He is using empty threats to promote his own agenda at home, while threatening the world with death and destruction. These threats are futile.
Mohammed al-Shaikh