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The de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, is one of the most influential Arab leaders in the world.

He controls sovereign wealth funds worth $1.3 trillion and his military – trained by retired American military officers – is one of the most capable of any Arab state (he also hired former American spies to build his intelligence agency).  The UAE has fought beside the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Somalia, and against the Islamic State. 

Although the crown prince has little tolerance for political dissention and throws peaceful activists in prison (where they are allegedly tortured), he has women in his cabinet and is religiously tolerant, even allowing Christians, Hindus and Sikhs to openly worship.

Every year, Mohammed bin Zayed showers millions upon millions of dollars upon the United States, hiring our consultants, courting lobbyists, and contributing handsomely to various charities and research institutions.

Given this, you would think at least some American ideals would rub off on him, but most do not.  He prefers autocratic leaders, actively fights against democracy in the Middle East (most notably in Egypt) and sells arms to embargoed countries against the will of the United Nations.

He is close with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, his partner in the military intervention in Yemen, and the United States is often caught in the middle of the rift between him and his main reginal rival Qatar, an American ally that has a U.S. air base.

It’s time we reevaluate our relationship with the UAE.  For one, American military equipment sold to Abu Dhabi somehow made it to the weapons cache of Libyan rebel forces and its leader Gen. Khalifa Hifter, to aid in their fight to overthrow the U.S.-supported government in Tripoli.  These weapons have also reached al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen and the military junta fighting against democracy in Sudan. 

These actions by the UAE not only violate sales agreements with the United States, but they also breach United Nations arms embargos.  Also, Mohammed bin Zayed has increasingly been cozying up to Russia and Iran, which should make us question where, when push comes to shove, his loyalty would ultimately land.

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