Outside Influencers: Muhammed bin Zayed & Yousef Al Otaiba

by Editorial

Muhammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates
Ambassador of the United Arab EmiratesAmbassador Al Otaiba enjoys considerable access in Washington in no small measure because of his charismatic personality, understanding of the U.S. system and the generous and perhaps strategic support he provides to charities, colleges and DC think tanks (such as the Center for American Progress and the Middle East Institute). The tiny Persian Gulf state (with a population of 10 million, of which only one million are citizens) also exerts influence as the world’s third largest arms purchaser.

For years, this huge, high-profile largesse was in sharp contrast to the more veiled activities of the Saudi embassy. Al Otaiba has entre?e to the top levels of society, government, and media. To what extent has spreading the wealth paid off? That depends on whom you talk to.

You don’t hear much about the role of UAE Mirage fighters in the devastating Saudi- led Yemen campaign or its heavy use of mercenaries to make up for their small armed forces. But soon the Saudis were unloosing their own pockets to compete. Did Arab money purchase loyalty and influence, or did it merely amplify a preexisting pro-Arab consensus? Either way, as reported by Politico, “the dramatic and sudden effort to isolate Qatar, like the fateful intervention before it in Yemen, sprang from the shared vision of two princes,” Muhammed bin Zayed (“MBZ”), the 56-year- old crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the impulsive 31-year-old Saudi Crown Prince who “seems to accept MBZ’s counseling but probably would be horrified of the perception that he may be the junior partner.” Regardless, both men are the up-and-coming powers behind their respective countries’ thrones, quite influential in Trumpworld, and the architects of the hyper-aggressive posture taken in Yemen and across the Middle East. Back in Washington, the ambassador and his fashionable wife Abeer have cultivated friendships with many in the media such as Norah O’Donnell and Bret and Amy Baier, with whom they have worked closely to raise tens of millions of dollars for Children’s National Medical Center.

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