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United Arab Emirates-United States Diplomacy Essay

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020


For the last one decade, bilateral relationships between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States (US) have strengthened tremendously. The strengthened ties provide fundamental and effective measures for collective obligations of trade and security against mutual threats. The UAE-US relationship marks its background on a common agenda to alleviate insecurity and embrace peace across the Gulf region, minimize religious and political extremism, and ensure global stability. In recent years, the UAE-US relationship has experienced tremendous growth in bilateral trade and cultural interplay. Shared threats and similar goals facing the UAE and the US have acted as a catalyst to the deepening partnership between the two regions.

As the relationship flourishes between the two regions, common enemies pose serious threats such as terrorism, extremism, and hostility from other nations. In a bid to conquer these disparities and protect cooperation, the UAE-US partnership has taken assertive and inclusive role in regional security. This paper will argue that the UAE-US relationship has evolved to form one of the most developed mutual bilateral relationships in the world. Despite the cultural diversities and political differences between the UAE and the US, the two regions have found a way to embrace and celebrate their differences by working together in shared objectives.

Relevant theories of international relations

Liberalism forms one of the state-level theory, which claims that the world is not dominated by socio-economic and political rivalry; on the contrary, there exists immense cooperation accruing to mutual benefits across states (Bayne and Woolcock 23). Liberalism argues that states do not wary about who dominates the other, but they join efforts to establish a just and rationalized world order. States have gradually learned that cooperation and shared responsibilities form a better model to growth instead of propagating conflicts (Cohen 32). Through cooperation, states can achieve progress for social justice and alleviate extremism by holding and practicing very diverse political or religious views.

Liberalism looks at the continued cooperation between the UAE and the US as the enabling factor to economic prosperity and arms control between and beyond the two regions. This relationship places the UAE and the US past the constructivist theory, which views states’ behaviors as unique, thus influencing their specific foreign policies. Constructivism sees states as having identities, which define their behavior in the global system. Over the past two decades, the UAE and the US identities have been influenced by the shared threats and common benefits, which have positively led to a relatively soft and enabling foreign policies towards each other, this enhancing socio-economic relationship (Katzman 111).

According to classical realists, states seek to increase their power against their enemies and the activities that they engage in lead to amassing power (Cohen 33). Classical realists view the agenda by the US to confront Iraq among other Gulf countries as efforts to combat threats posed to its superpower status. Therefore, the US foreign policy allegedly encourages cooperation from allies such as UAE in a bid to engage security measures against a common enemy whilst remaining powerful. However, the classical realists’ claim is disputable in this case since the UAE-US relationship is built on a mutual consent from the two parties. These theories elaborate how the UAE-US relationship has become stronger now than in the past.

Arguably, the US relations with other states developed from a classical realist perspective, viz. maintaining the status quo in terms of power, but matured with time to the liberalist view, which encourages bilateral cooperation rather than superpower-motivated growth. For instance, the invasion of Iraq to Kuwait in August 1990 posed regional instability and the US reiterated to end the conflicts by engaging cooperation with the UAE (Blanchard and Kerr 43). Abu Dhabi joined efforts with the US by providing financial and logistical help coupled with deploying about 2000 troops to curb the conflicts.

Impacts of good diplomacy between UAE and US

Diplomacy has existed since the beginning of interactions between individuals or nations. Conducting negotiations between two nations becomes crucial in updating international affairs and pursuing national interests. Among the several functions of diplomacy, the main ones connecting the UAE and the US include working closely together to promote international peace and security, which creates an enabling environment to enhance economic cooperation. As urged by the liberalist theorists of international relations, diplomacy is based on achieving specific and mutual agendas between two nations or entities (Katzman 45). Without diplomacy, much of international affairs would be difficult due to lack of common interests, international organizations and cooperation would be unachievable, and the world would be riddled with conflicting interests, thus leading to war.

The UAE-US relationship was a fundamental step toward finding harmony and economic prosperity as manifested by the establishment of the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the UAE Embassy in Washington DC. This aspect shows the commitment to continue the already existing strong relationship for the good welfare of the citizens and particularly expatriates and tourists. For the US to ensure security for its citizens, it needs to engage diplomatic negotiations with other nations and most precisely those that have mutual enemies. The US entered into diplomatic ties with the UAE later in 1972 after the 1971 Federation of the seven emirates into the UAE (Blanchard and Kerr 48). Of great concern was the ever-erupting conflict between the US and the Middle East. The invasions posed instability in the region, but this issue was to be addressed immediately by the UAE-US diplomatic forum.

After stabilizing the security situation, economic progress would be attainable. The UAE in particular had an open and innovative foreign policy, which could be incorporated into the international markets. The UAE-US diplomatic ties emphasized the expansion of the bilateral relationship by incorporating firm defense partnership coupled with shared desire to promoting peace and economic prosperity at international levels. By addressing common issues, the UAE-US relations were guaranteed to grow since national interests for each nation were prioritized. The key factor was building partner capacity to minimize on individual costs and losses through war by advancing national interests whilst tactically and technically holding on issues of mutual benefits. For example, the nuclear energy agreement signed in January 2009 by the UAE-US cooperation signified the deepening commercial trust and forecast of great economic achievements in the near future. According to Blanchard and Kerr (43), this step by the UAE-US agreement sought to foster technological empowerment, which is necessary to ceasing international crimes and terrorist threats.

Apart from taking diplomacy as a means to economic survival and upkeep of peace, diplomatic ties between the UAE and the US have advanced social relations of the citizens of the two countries. For instance, peaceful negotiations established a common obligation in attaining safe Afghanistan, thus curbing terrorist threats to the citizens of the UAE and the US (Looney 103). Although diplomacy normally takes time, it has been very effective in the end for the growth of the UAE and the US. Good diplomacy has helped the US and the UAE to overlook national interests for the good welfare of the entire world. The UAE economic powerhouse and the US military prowess combine to create mutual benefit by bringing forth balanced outcomes.

Economic cooperation

The continued growth and diversity of the UAE and the US economies have been amplified due to the deepening ties in diplomatic negotiations. For instance in 2012, the UAE and the US experienced fast growth in trade, which accounted for about $ 24 billion of products with the US taking the largest portion of its export to the UAE. Despite the economic crisis of 2008, the countries maintained close ties, which allowed them to remain assertive in trade exchange during that period. Over the last one decade, the US has expanded its export to the UAE faster than any other nation in the region (Blanchard and Kerr 56).

The UAE’s flight market has increasingly gained from the US population since it can now fly 91 direct flights from Emirates and Etihad to different US cities each week. This number is increasing daily since the UAE and the US are not only connected in trade, but also in sports, media, entertainment, and health among other social interactive activities. In addition, the demand back and forth continues to bulge every day as the trade ties are highly preserved. The UAE and the US engaged formal economic policy negotiations, which involved inter-government programs geared at improving bilateral investment whilst magnifying the responsibility of the private business to enhance economic growth in the two regions. This aspect manifests in the recent agreement by the UAE-US to develop the prestigious and high rated Canaveral port in Florida, US (Kahl and Lynch 40).

Promoting tolerance by alleviating extremism

The UAE ranks among the top regions with the most diverse communities across the world. However, this aspect does not restrict the country, instead it is a platform to reach as many divisions of the society as possible and engage them in working relationships. Numerous religions are practiced widely and openly in the UAE, and this diversity has been taken from a positivist view, which seeks to counter extremism by engaging diverse people to work together by adopting a model of shared prosperity to encourage cooperation across all sectors. In a bid to achieve global engagement, the UAE foreign policy allowed the US to engage in cultural partnership directly.

The US organizations were thus established and they include the Guggenheim museum, New York University, and Cleveland clinic among other US organizations running in the UAE (Kahl and Lynch 44). The UAE’s embassy in Washington DC has served a major role in facilitating reliable friendship between the two nations. For instance, the UAE embassy has joined efforts with Manchester City Football Club to construct football tracks, which empower youth soccer-training activities for growing societies in the US. These ties have developed gradually, and now even at times of economic lows and security threats, the UAE-US relation has not been shaken.

The 2009 and 2014 CRS reports

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) 2009 report by Katzman (4), the UAE foreign policy has become bolder in the recent years by allocating finances to enhance stability across the region. The UAE teamed with the US to counter Iran’s threat on global peace and stability. The UAE sought to purchase sophisticated weapons such as missiles from the US in an effort to complement the efforts to establish missile-defense links with a similar objective of countering the growing missile threat by Iran. The report underscored the growing concerns of potential leakage of the US sophisticated weaponry technology to Iraq through the UAE. This move shows that the UAE has strict controls and assertive capacity to adhere to the international nuclear act. In an effort to curb extremism activities such as Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE government withdrew the citizenship of this group in December 2011 and other terrorist groups allied to the Al-Qaida (Wehrey 120). The US backed these sanctions and sought to work closely with the UAE to achieve social democracy in the Gulf region.

The latest CRS 2014 report on the Islamic State crisis and the US policy shows that the emerging forces of the ISIS form a potential threat to the US advances in the Middle East. The UAE has engaged in coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in an effort to promote peace. Saudi Arabia has hosted the US training forces aiming at protecting Syrians from the Islamic attacks. The latest CRS report indicates major advancement in the UAE-US relationship, which seeks to fill gaps that have existed to undermine the bilateral efforts between the UAE and the US. For instance, in 2007, the UAE adopted a law to reinforce export controls to Iran and other countries, which were perceived to undermine the UAE-US efforts on ensuring stability in the region (Cohen 67). The cooperation of the UAE and the US against the unstable states in the Middle East such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran has improved increasingly. Apart from complimenting the US military force, the UAE has vowed to supplement the US with finances needed to sustain the international security mission running until late 2014 in Afghanistan.

Progressive leadership in the UAE

Since the engagement of diplomatic ties between the UAE and the US, the former’s leadership has gone through massive improvements with the inclusion of females to take prominent appointments in the government. The UAE-US relations have not only been united in economic or security prosperity, but also in outlook. Outlook includes the socio-political manifestation and progress by the leaders (Bayne and Woolcock 35). The fact that the US entered an agreement with the UAE at a time when the latter looked to have been lagging behind in terms of outlook was a boost since it could borrow from the US. Even though the UAE may not be considered as a democracy, its social openness and tolerance, and the increasingly growing wealth, buffers the outlook of the political system. Apparently, the mix of modest reforms and socio-cultural partnership with the US have rendered the UAE government the opportunity to evade possible public unrest as it has been the case in most Middle East nations since 2011. The establishment of the UAE Embassy in Washington DC projects the country’s outlook as a diverse one giving its citizen the go ahead to interact amicably internationally without the fear of discrimination (Wehrey 118).

The new role of women in the UAE society

Currently, the UAE has shown efforts to counter gender imbalance, which previously existed in the employment sector among other key sectors. However, the UAE has broadened opportunities for its citizens by addressing regional and international problems of gender imbalance coupled with racial/ ethnic and religious discrimination. The idea to empower and support women to realize and utilize their full potential aimed at first improving elementary school enrollment. Apparently, over 50 percent of all graduates in the UAE universities are women (Blanchard and Kerr 61). The UAE constitution has given women full rights to access competitive appointments such as cabinet ministers, pilots, and directors of major boards in the government.

Women empowerment has been manifested in major platforms, for instance, UAE’s minister for Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi featured in the 2007 Forbes Magazine list of top 100 most powerful women across the globe. Later 2008, the UAE government nominated the first female judge. This move shows the spirited nature of the UAE government to maximize on potential labor force toward economic sustainability. The positive perception on women empowerment has partly been influenced by the UAE-US relationship since the US sits a step ahead in terms of the incorporation of females in major and sensitive roles. The UAE-US social and cultural ties have encouraged establishment of female empowering centers such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Center, which collaborates with the UAE government to provide breast cancer education. These opportunities have escalated the place of the woman at the same time alleviating the skewed nature of male chauvinism (Grossman 44).

The Port Canaveral’s UAE-US deal

UAE-based company agreed a 35-year deal to run a cargo terminal at the US port of Florida. This milestone shows in-depth developments in cooperation between the UAE and the US. On fully operation, the Gulftainer, in its new US base, is estimated to provide over 2000 jobs to the citizens of the two nations. This move embraces unity and bonding among people of diverse backgrounds upon working together. Port Canaveral project will facilitate trade through cargo operations between the two nations and beyond. The motive behind establishing port Canaveral in the US base was not only due to its high profile management, but also due to the need for prolonged ties between the UAE and the US. This aspect does not only boost trade and technological exchange, but it acts as a profile for other nations to learn from the leading role played by the UAE-US relationship (Bayne and Woolcock 89).

The UAE-US security cooperation

The UAE-US defense framework penned an agreement in July 25, 1994, which enhanced engagement of the two parties in different ways. The UAE ports have been of significant use to the US naval activities geared towards preventing Gulf wars; for instance, the 2011 Islamic Brotherhood conflicts and the strengthening forces of the terrorist groups targeting American citizens across the diaspora. The UAE ports provide deep harbors, which are crucial to the US aircraft carriers. Apparently, the US naval vessels form the majority of external vessels that harbor at the UAE ports (Katzman 30). The UAE-US relations are enhancing global security by deploying sophisticated systems to anchor regional missile defense capacity. The UAE and the US engage often in joint training of their military forces to increase compatibility and coordination. This move has been possible since the UAE purchase military choppers, which require US-integrated skills in operating.

In a bid to actualize these efforts, the UAE was recently involved in peacemaking in Libya during the era of Gaddafi together with the US. The UAE used the US-acquired air force to improve compatibility of the closely working forces. The peaceful nuclear energy agreement enforced on 17 December 2009 gave the UAE a chance to attain nuclear technology and equipment from the US (Grossman 43). The UAE committed to nonproliferation agreements, which was a strategy by the US to ensure that nuclear network grew closer to Iraq with an effort to circumvent the increasing nuclear technology in the country, which is perceived as potential threat to the international security. On security and defense, the UAE has increased the purchase of arms from the US, which enhances security in the region. On the other hand, the US views the UAE’s purchase of arms as a move towards achieving security in the Gulf region. This correlation and shared goals have only been possible by up keeping detailed and inclusive diplomatic negotiations by the UAE-US partnership (Katzman 21).


The UAE-US relationship has been playing critical role in the contemporary times. It has taken the UAE and US great composure and diplomatic negotiations in a bid to absorb the criticism coming from the international community particularly the Islamic states. Nonetheless, the backlash has not altered the UAE-US’s main agenda in achieving world peace and stability. Viewing socio-economic spectrum from a common lens has helped the UAE and the US to record robust growth in all sectors of the economy, thus modeling desired lifestyle for most people across the globe. Since challenges ought to occur, the UAE-US relationship has always sought to overlook their personal interests with an agenda of blocking any possible loopholes, which could see potential attacks from enemy quarters.

Works Cited

Bayne, Nicholas, and Stephen Woolcock. The New Economic Diplomacy: Decision-making and Negotiation in International Economic Relations, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Blanchard, Christopher, and Paul Kerr. The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Cooperation, Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 2009. Print.

Cohen, Nathan. Nuclear Ambitions and Issues in the Middle East, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2010. Print.

Grossman, Marc. “A Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Back to the Future.” The Foreign Service Journal 91.9 (2014): 8-48. Print.

Kahl, Colin, and Marc Lynch. “U.S. Strategy after the Arab Uprisings: Toward Progressive Engagement.” The Washington Quarterly 36.2 (2013): 39-60. Print.

Katzman, Kenneth. The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy, Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, 2012. Print.

Looney, Robert. Handbook of Us-Middle East Relations, Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. Print.

Wehrey, Frederic. “Bahrain’s Decade of Discontent.” Journal of Democracy 24.3 (2013): 116-126. Print.

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