Vice President Kamala Harris’ frantic trip to the UAE to pay respects after the ruler’s death also reset a partnership with a major regional ally.
The UAE reportedly rejected Washington’s oil urgings, amid other disagreements, raising tensions.
I traveled to the United Arab Emirates to express condolences on the passing Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who was a close friend of the U.S, and to make clear we will continue to deepen our partnership under UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s leadership. pic.twitter.com/Vj6liBXyNx
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) May 16, 2022
Harris, the highest-ranking Biden senior government official to welcome the new president, said they will express their condolences and dedication to the relationship.
Conversations and Promises
Harris and UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan were virtually unheard of by observers in Abu Dhabi until the end. Antony Blinken leaned over Harris’ armrest to hear better.
Despite a long-standing defense partnership, the two countries differed over geopolitical issues. Recently, that includes refusing to side with western allies against Moscow in Ukraine.
Sheikh Mohammed furthered ties with Russia and China as de facto rulers, alarming Washington. He’s tried to resist American requests to pump more oil as Europe relies on Russian energy.
Yousef al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, described Abu Dhabi’s fears as a “stress test” in March.
A few of Harris’ officials worked for months to defuse tensions over U.S. withdrawal fears.
.@VP has arrived in Abu Dhabi to offer condolences to demonstrate the support of the Biden-Harris Administration. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was a longtime friend of the US, and this delegation honors his legacy & points to the future of relations between the US and UAE. pic.twitter.com/4v3Gjqy5wV
— Rachel Palermo (@RachelPalermo46) May 16, 2022
Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Institute for a New American Security and former McCain adviser, said, “This is an attempt to get them on a better footing.”
Any tension was barely noticeable.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, the UAE’s foreign affairs minister, said he discussed regional and international issues with Blinken that evening, along with the Ukrainian crisis.
Many dignitaries and world leaders visited Abu Dhabi to honor Sheikh Khalifa and meet with his successor.
Arrivals paying homage included Israel and Iran, Russia and the U.S., Pakistan, and India. Macron and Johnson were the first Western leaders to visit.
Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said the visit was positive. It shows the Emirati authorities that Washington values their alliance, he said.
Harris repeated her tarmac remarks before boarding Air Force Two to return to Washington.
Harris made the remarks under a beating sun after meeting with Sheikh Mohammed at the marbled presidential gateway at Abu Dhabi’s airport. Her statements said little about America’s problems with a regional ally.
Harris turned away from the press when asked what she would tell Biden. During the 37-hour trip, Harris didn’t answer a single question.
She repeated the Joe Biden’s government commitment to strengthening ties and advancing American and Emirati interests.
During a fuel stop in Germany, a staffer turned off Fox News channel as Jeanine Pirro criticized the VP. The cable news clip showed the vice president stumbling.
Harris remained silent when asked if she and the Gulf leader discussed oil. The moments reminded others of the limits of vice presidential power and its demands.
A report detailed another frustration as Harris came back to Washington on Tuesday. The VP likes to spend time away from the White House, the report said, citing her support for abortion and voter rights.