'Surrounded by turmoil' - The UAE post Arab Spring

The United Arab Emirates security is seriously challenged by the conflict with extremist groups in its neighbouring countries, the son of the Emir of Abu Dhabi told an audience at King’s College London on 28th January.

His Highness Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a former PhD Student in the War Studies Department, began in his role as Visiting Fellow by discussing the challenging topic: ‘Position of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the developments in the Arab World 2011 – 2014: The Arab Spring and the Extremist Groups’.

HH Sheikh Dr Khalid considered the last four years of conflict in the Middle East, telling his audience that this period cannot be looked upon simply as one issue, rather a series of interconnected conflicts: ‘I believe the Arab Spring is in fact, a collection of Arab Springs...the UAE has not been immune from the spill-over effects’.

The rise of violent political extremism and increased prominence of groups such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda has threatened the stability of the UAE, which HH Sheikh Dr Khalid said has responded to by launching tough counter-terrorist actions alongside negotiations with neighbouring states such as Libya and Yemen. He stressed the need for continued collaboration among UAE states, in addition to Western nations, to help counter the ‘stability...challenged by the turmoil we are witnessing around us’.

HH Sheikh Dr Khalid spoke to an audience including King’s President and Principal Professor Edward Byrne AC, the UAE Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Abdulrahman Ghanem Al Mutaiwee CVO, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Ambassadors, MPs and Peers, and staff and students from the War Studies department.

He said of the event: ‘I am so pleased to have the opportunity to return to King’s and to be able to discuss with peers and colleagues what is not only a matter of great personal interest, but, I believe, is an area of interest to many others, particularly in these turbulent times.’

Questions taken from the audience, including from Lord Jolliffe and Mr John Woodcock MP, further discussed the threats to the UAE and subsequent actions taken by the state. HH Sheikh Dr Khalid said that they were witnessing the damage of Arab identities and unity by extremism and said as a state in a very challenging situation, the UAE would continue to work to counter these.

Professor Theo Farrell, Head of King’s War Studies Department thanked HH Sheikh Dr Khalid for his talk, saying: ‘We are delighted to have His Highness Sheikh Dr Khalid back with us at King’s. The topic he has chosen is very timely with a huge amount of interest and scrutiny being placed upon the UAE currently, their strategic role in the region and world and how all nations tackle extremist groups.’