UAE nation branding meets early headwinds – Analysis – Eurasia Review

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For at least the past two decades, the UAE, aided by some of the world’s largest consulting and public affairs firms, has led one of, if not the most successful national branding campaign in the Middle East. .

The campaign was supported by cutting-edge technological and economic initiatives; a bold and assertive foreign policy backed by the financial and military might of the United Arab Emirates; a degree of economic diversification away from oil; socially liberal policies that make the United Arab Emirates the desired destination for young Arabs and non-Arab expatriates; embrace the values ​​of religious tolerance and position the Emirates as a key node in global humanitarian relief efforts.

For the longest time, this branding deflected criticism of the UAE’s tarnished national human rights record; intrusive surveillance of UAE and non-UAE dissenting voices, journalists, academics and activists in the UAE and elsewhere; criticism of its support for militias in Libya and Yemen and for private Russian military companies in Libya; and his willingness to risk encouraging Islamophobia by pushing in Europe for a crackdown on non-violent political Islam.

However, a series of setbacks in recent weeks has raised the specter of a multi-million dollar UAE campaign unraveling at the edges, 15 years after learning from a debacle in 2006 when DP World , owned by Dubai, has sought to acquire Compagnie Péninsulaire et Orientale de Navigation à Vapor (P&O).

The acquisition has sparked controversy on national security grounds in the United States. Many questioned the transfer of management of six major US ports to a Middle Eastern company as part of the takeover. A humiliating debate forced DP World to sell the American part of the acquisition involving the management of the port to an American finance and insurance company.

Since then, the 705-member European Parliament, in perhaps the most stinging bump of the UAE projection, earlier this month voted 383 to 47 on a resolution urging EU member states European Union and potential international sponsors to boycott the Dubai 2020 exhibition next month. “In order to express their disapproval of human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates”.

The non-binding resolution also demanded the immediate release of jailed Emirati activists Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed al-Roken and Nasser bin Ghaith. He further noted violations of the rights of women, foreign workers and prisoners in the UAE despite significant progress, at least with regard to women’s rights.

Likewise, the United Arab Emirates, a year after establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, has, beyond persuading the Jewish state to indefinitely suspend Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, little to show for their claim that this bold move would advance a peaceful resolution. of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently signaled his lack of interest in negotiating a settlement and his opposition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in his address this week to the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Bennet did not once utter the word Palestine and only referred to the problems of Palestine in the context of the threat posed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

Likewise, the UAE is hoping to export oil to Europe via a leaky Israeli pipeline and has hit Israeli environmental issues. The government of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved an agreement between Israeli state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company and an UAE-Israeli consortium to pump UAE oil from the port of Eilat on the Red Sea to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean from where it would be shipped to Europe.

The project faces opposition from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, environmental groups, scientists and local residents who fear a repeat of Israel’s biggest environmental disaster caused six years ago by a leak in the pipeline. Thousands of people signed a petition against the deal and hundreds protested against it last Friday across Israel.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, whose Tel Aviv home was one of 50 sites targeted by protesters, said the government was investigating the deal. “The UAE, relevant government ministries, environmental organizations will want to know that a thorough, thorough and serious review has been carried out before any decisions are made. We will ensure that no one tries to approve a decision under the radar while the review is underway, ”said Mr. Lapid.

The UAE’s image has been repeatedly tarnished by claims it used Israeli software and employed former US intelligence officials to spy on their Emirati and non-Emirati distractors.

These allegations took on greater significance with the confession to the United States Department of Justice by three former intelligence officers that they had carried out hacking operations on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the indictment of Thomas J. Barrack, the head of former President Donald J. Trump in the 2016 inaugural committee, accused of failing to register as a foreign agent on behalf of the UAE, as well as new evidence of UAE spying of dissidents in Grande -Brittany.

Mr Barrack’s indictment, according to Bloomberg News, claims he was charged by several unidentified senior Emirati officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed; his brother, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE national security adviser; and Ali Mohammed Hammad Al Shamsi, director of the UAE intelligence service. Bloomberg further reported that the indictment also refers to Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, but identifies him only as “Emirati official.”

None of the Emirati officials named in the indictment have been charged with wrongdoing. Mr. Barrack pleaded not guilty.

The UAE’s human rights record became a topic of public debate in Australia this week following a documentary by Four Corners, a flagship program of public broadcaster ABC. Focusing on foreign owners of Australian football clubs, including Emirati Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates whose franchise acquired Melbourne FC, Four Corners spent half of his 42-minute program to question the UAE’s human rights record, dating back at least a decade, and the way it does football business.

A European diplomat said: “The UAE has had a surprisingly long period in the sun. The clouds are starting to gather. There are things the UAE can do to avoid the clouds, but there is no indication that the UAE is accepting that people’s concerns do not go away. The UAE may think these concerns will matter less as the influence of China and Russia expands. This may be true, but also the opposite. “


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