The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, came out strongly in defense of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration Wednesday, the first such supportive comment from a Gulf Arab state.
As the Associated Press reports, Sheikh Abdullah first emphasized that the United States has the right to make a “sovereign decision” regarding its immigration policy.
Abdullah went on to defend the order itself, rather than merely acknowledging President Trump had the right to issue it. He pronounced himself satisfied with Trump’s assurances that the order was not based on religion (i.e. “anti-Muslim”) and noted that only seven out of the many Muslim-majority countries were affected by it. He also said it was important to remember the ban would only last for three months.
“Some of these countries that were on this list are countries that face structural problems. These countries should try to solve these issues… and these circumstances before trying to solve this issue with the United States,” the UAE’s top diplomat added.
The AP observes that the UAE is traditionally a close American ally, has been involved in the fight against ISIS, hosts a U.S.-backed counter-extremism effort, “prides itself on being a tolerant, forward-looking nation,” hosts an enormous population of foreign residents, and is America’s largest Arab export market. A golf course named after Donald Trump also happens to be opening in Dubai soon.
The AP does not mention that the Emirates are, or were (opinions among UAE officials vary), involved in Saudi Arabia’s coalition against the Iran-backed insurgents in Yemen. As with the Saudis, Houthi forces have attacked Emirati vessels off the Yemen coast. The UAE has good reason to maintain friendly contacts with its allies.
Reuters notes that Sheikh Abdullah also offered a “guarded welcome” to President Trump’s proposal for safe zones in Syria: “If the aim behind these areas is humanitarian and temporary and under an international umbrella, I think this is a basis we can work on.”