Last updated on October 25th, 2018
At the 73rd UN General Assembly, US President Donald Trump not only overlooked the war crimes conducted by Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen, but instead praised their financial aid to the war inflicted land. The President persuaded states to focus on their ‘national interest’ even as his own country’s foreign policy has been ruled by allied gulf nations. During the 2016 Presidential election campaign, Erik Prince emerged as one of the big names that took part in the extensive, clandestine lobbying of the White House during Trump’s 2016 Presidential election campaign. An example of the same influence became evident during the recent UN General Assembly speech by Trump, where he turned a blind eye on the raging global issue concerning two of its biggest gulf allies.
Former Navy SEAL and Deal Breaker
A former Navy SEAL and founder of the private military firm, Blackwater, Erik Prince was present at the infamous secret meeting of Seychelles. Attendees identified Prince as describing himself as the ‘unofficial envoy for President-elect Trump’, who was yet to be inaugurated a week after the meeting, which took place on January 11, 2017. Even though Prince denied representing Trump at the meeting and claimed that it had no link with a ‘Russian backchannel’; his encounter with Dmitriev indicated otherwise. Dmitriev led the Russian Direct Investment Fund aka RDIF. RDIF is a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund, which has also co-invested with the UAE sovereign fund Mubadala, in 40 investments in Russia.
Thus, the Blackwater founder’s claim seemed unconvincing that the Russian official’s presence was a coincidence at the same place and for the same reason as his ─ meeting Emiratis.
Trump’s undue support for the UAE-Saudi-led and influenced decisions became evident, suggesting an ‘existing’ impact of the gulf on US’ foreign policy. Trump not only backed the June 2017 diplomatic blockade, but also fired Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson allegedly for intervening the Saudi-UAE plan of invading Qatar.
Gulf Influence on US Foreign Policy
Seychelles wasn’t the first time that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan or “MBZ”, was meeting Trump’s circle of people. The two parties had met before in December 2016 in New York when Trump’s campaign advisers Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn met MBZ. Seychelles only happened to make more helpful American connections approachable for MBZ including, George Nader, Elliott Broidy and Tom Barrack. The first one, a Lebanese-American businessman was also the acting adviser to MBZ while the second, a Republican lobbyist and the party’s top fundraiser, had existing business ties worth millions with the UAE. Meanwhile, Barrack’s realty benefited the most with Emirati deals.
MBZ brokered the meeting with the reported aim of getting Russia withdraw support for the Assad regime in Syria, one of Saudi Arabia and Trump administration’s common goals. He, however, only experimented the establishment of a back channel between Trump and Russia to gain self-interested benefits such as winning Trump’s support against Qatar and further substituting the gulf nation’s influence over the militant group, Hamas.
There was no reason why Trump would, on a global platform like the UN General Assembly, identify the UAE and Saudi Arabia for leading war crimes in Yemen. However, it has now become a matter of national interest for the US to only not only pull itself out of the Middle Eastern influence, but also out of its superfluous regional conflicts.