A new set of leaked emails sent by the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, have revealed that the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has targeted civilian sites, and that such attacks are damaging his country’s image in America. In an email sent to officials in the government of the UAE two years ago, Al-Otaiba expressed his concern about the continued targeting of civilians in the war-torn country and its repercussions on the Gulf state’s relationship with Washington, describing the situation as a nightmare.
At the time, he explained, the Obama administration was still showing its support reluctantly and pointed out that the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen was damaging the reputation of the United States and thus putting the UAE – an active and enthusiastic partner in the coalition – in an awkward position.
The memo documenting Al-Otaiba’s concerns was sent in September 2015 to a wide range of decision makers in the UAE, including the Assistant Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Al-Shamsi and the Crown Prince’s Undersecretary, Mohammed Mubarak Al-Mazrouei.
The leaks revealed that Al-Otaiba also forwarded his email to Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, a senior official close to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and informed him that he had sent the same memo to “TPZ, ABZ and Dr Anwar”; UAE Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan; Tahnoon Bin Zayed, a senior UAE banker; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash. Al-Otaiba expressed serious concerns about the war in Yemen and its political consequences.
“In a series of long talks with officials in the White House,” he wrote, “it became clear that the casualties and the side effects in Yemen were trapping the administration within a narrow political impasse.”
He admitted openly that, “The increased targeting of civilian sites (in Yemen), together with the lack of humanitarian support, have been translated into obstacles with Washington.”
Al-Otaiba has never publicly acknowledged the degree of human suffering caused by the Saudi-UAE war against the Yemeni people.
In an event held last year at the Centre for American Progress, the largest Democrat institution in receipt of UAE funding, the Emirati ambassador adopted a different tone, as if his country did not care about the subsequent political repercussions and its image in the West as a result of the Yemeni conflict.
During the programme, Al-Otaiba complained about the Houthis’ control of Yemen and justified the war there. “We will not allow this to happen on the borders of a country producing 10 million barrels of oil per day, the home of Makkah and Madinah. And if this decision disturbs some of our friends in the West, let it be.”
In October 2016, Al-Otaiba promised $700,000 to the centre, as an earlier leaked email revealed.
The ambassador “does not propose to modify the strategy” in Yemen but believes that the UAE and Saudi Arabia need to engage in a diplomatic counteroffensive in order to improve their image, including meetings with the media, academics and NGOs.
His most recent suggestion, according to the leaks, was that the UAE “at least temporarily has to be cautious when choosing military targets (and this applies to the Saudi Air Force, which seems to be responsible for most random strikes).”