The UAE Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaibi, has clashed on social media with US Congressman Ro Khanna over the war on Yemen and the UAE’s direct involvement in escalating divisions in that country.
Khanna told The Intercept that the Emirati ambassador had yelled at him last year for leading efforts to end US support for the war in Yemen where the UAE is backing southern separatists.
“I’ve never had an ambassador of another country come to my office and literally yell at me, but that’s what I had with the UAE ambassador,” Khanna said. “I was just taken away. It led me to think that there’s a real arrogance, a real sense of entitlement, a sense that he thought himself so powerful that he could act that way. And I’ve never really seen that before.”
In what seemed like a bid to defuse tension, Al-Otaibi denied raising his voice at Khanna and invited the congressman to speak on his podcast.
“Over thirteen years in Washington, and even longer in public service, I have raised many issues with many people, but I have never once raised my voice,” wrote Al-Otaibi to Khanna. “Making my point directly and calmly is more my style. And that’s how I remember all of our meetings. Let’s prove the point that two passionate advocates can have another direct and calm discussion about serious issues.”However, the congressman replied that his participation comes with a precondition for the ambassador to use his influence to secure the release of prominent Yemeni journalist Adel Al-Hasani who has been detained for five months by forces supported by Abu Dhabi.
“Right now, it would not be appropriate for me to appear on your podcast while a well-known journalist is detained with the support of your government. Al-Hasani’s release [would] highlight the pivotal role the UAE can play in building bridges between disparate groups in the Middle East and the US, and how both of our nations can help bring an end to the war in Yemen.”
Khanna has been leading Congressional efforts to end US involvement in the Yemen war and to withdraw its support for the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s military involvement in the country since 2015.
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden announced an end to his country’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.