New reports suggest that in a recent private meeting with journalists, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, threatened that he would impose sanctions on the UAE way harsher than the Qatar blockade if he sees necessary.
A newly released report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed this Wednesday that the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the UAE as two oil-rich quasi-neighboring countries in the region has reached alarming points during recent months.
As the report noted, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, privately threatened the UAE in the presence of journalists a few months ago that if he sees necessary, he would impose a blockade on Abu Dhabi way devastating than the one he imposed on Qatar back in 2017.
To read between the lines, the young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia noted in the off-the-record meeting with the media in last December that he had sent a list of demands to the UAE and warned the Persian Gulf country that he would “impose measures on it if it continues to rival major Saudi policy positions within the region and in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+)”.
“It will be worse than what I did with Qatar,” the Crown Prince also noted with a threatening tone, referring to the 2017 embargo on Qatar that Riyadh led, along with other Arab states such as the UAE and Bahrain. Back then, the Saudi-led coalition accused Qatar of support for terrorism as the main reason for the blockade, a claim that Qatar denied. The coalition also criticized Al Jazeera and Qatar’s relations with Iran.
Saudi Arabia-UAE rivalry is nothing new!
The Wall Street Journal’s report this Wednesday on the rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE should not be surprising and unexpected for those who know the history of relations between the two countries.
In fact, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi has a history of conflicts that has been only growing during the past years. This clash of interests is more obvious in regard to foreign policy objectives within the region, notably in Yemen, where both had taken military action against the Houthi fighter but, at the same time, compete for leadership over the other.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have also had their differences in OPEC+, in which both are members but Saudi Arabia takes the leading role in. Back in October last year, the UAE had accused Saudi Arabia of forcing it to agree to an oil production cut at a major OPEC meeting, leading to the Emiratis threatening to even cancel its membership in the organization. Despite the threats from both sides, the two countries and allies have managed to prevent their dispute from escalating and have largely kept it from leaking out into the press or diplomatic circles. In other words, both countries have so far managed not to let the mutual fury burn their relationship altogether.
But this has not always been the case. Back in December last year, bin Zayed refused to attend the historic China-Arab summit in Riyadh, a move that made the media around the world zoom in on Riyadh-Abu Dhabi relations. Similarly, the UAE leader did not attend at the May 2023 Arab Summit held in Jeddah, chaired by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz. In addition, the WSJ report noted that according to anonymous sources, the tensions have continued to such an extent that bin Salman and the UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed have not had any direct talks for the past six months.