The meeting will help the US deepen its cooperation with a key partner in the Middle East.
US President Donald Trump will host Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Monday, the White House said, adding that thee meeting will help the US deepen its cooperation with a key partner in the Middle East.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed will discuss with President Donald Trump at the White House enhancing cooperation on counterterrorism, confronting Iran and other core issues in the increasingly close relationship.
Over the course of what is expected to be a two-day visit to Washington, Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, is also scheduled to meet the US secretaries of defence and state, and to brief senior members of congress.
The visit is the culmination of talks between UAE officials and the US administration that began soon after Mr Trump was elected, aimed at “trying to lay the framework for a constructive bilateral partnership”, said Brian Katulis, senior fellow for national security at the Center for American Progress, who discussed the visit with top officials in Abu Dhabi last week.
The meeting will “give more definition to what measures the United States and Gulf countries can do together across the spectrum, from Yemen to Iraq to Syria to countering Iran’s influence,” Mr Katulis said.
The Crown Prince’s first official talks with the Trump administration come only days before the US president embarks on his first overseas trip, beginning in Riyadh. Mr Trump will hold talks with the Saudi leadership, GCC countries and heads of state of Muslim-majority nations that are part of the Islamic Military Alliance organised by Riyadh.
Preparation for the talks in the kingdom will be an important part of Sheikh Mohammed’s trip, according to observers and those familiar with the planning.
“For the Americans, [Sheikh Mohammed] can provide an in-depth and comprehensive portrait of the new Saudi leadership, which is invaluable. For the Emiratis, they benefit, like other partners, from a successful Trump visit,” said Bilal Saab, chair of the Gulf Policy Working Group at the Atlantic Council think tank. “So coming here to pave the way for it is key.”
Mr Trump’s interactions even with traditional western allies such as Australia and Italy have sometimes been erratic, and the president is not used to long bilateral and multilateral meetings with multiple heads of state.
“It’s a friend of a friend coming over and saying this is going to be an important trip, let us help you understand the ground realities,” said Stephen Seche, a former US ambassador to Yemen and executive vice president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “It’s still a sharp learning curve situation for the White House to understand a very prickly and difficult to fathom regional situation.”
Mr Trump met Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defence minister of Saudi Arabia, in Washington in March. While the White House is looking to work more closely with Riyadh, Sheikh Mohammed’s visit is also an opportunity to show that the UAE plays a unique role for the US.
Since Mr Trump was elected last year, Emirati leaders and officials, including the Ambassador to Washington, have become key interlocutors for the White House inner circle on the regional issues most important to the administration, with fighting ISIL and Al Qaeda, and confronting Iran, at the top of the list.
Despite a deficit in trust that built up between most Gulf states and Barack Obama, the UAE was still viewed by the former administration, and the US congress, as the most important Arab partner because of its military capabilities and opposition to religious extremism.
For a Trump administration whose regional priority is defeating ISIL, while also reducing US commitments abroad by relying on allies, the UAE’s role has come to be seen as even more crucial.
“Trump will be looking for regional partners who can help him secure immediate wins in foreign policy, and the UAE is very well placed to contribute, especially on the counter-terrorism front, which matters more than anything else to Trump,” Mr Saab said.