The UAE and the US are bound by common interests and values and share similar views on a wide range of issues. The two countries share the same perception and face some common threats, and have managed to build a very strategic relationship at all levels over the years, former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told a lecture hosted at the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed on Monday.
The lecture, titled ‘The Value of the UAE-US Strategic Relationship’, was held at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Palace and was attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as well as other dignitaries.
During the course of the lecture, Mattis said the UAE and US were natural partners and had developed a thriving commercial relationship as well as deep and growing defence and security ties. Mattis, who was head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) between 2010 and 2013, said the health of the two nations’ strategic relationship was testament to the wise leadership of the UAE, which he said, was extremely savvy economically and strategically.
The UAE combines culture, history and tradition and carries a weight that is unique, Mattis said. It does not dismiss others or put them down. The four-star general said the UAE had come of age and added that it had been an honour to work with the highly-regarded UAE military for it was very professional and extremely talented.
Mattis said the US placed a very high value on the strategic relationship with UAE. Terming the relationship broad, deep and strong, he said the US accorded it extremely high priority.
In recent years, shared concerns over Iran’s regional meddling and the rise of extremism in the region have led to a further deepening of the relationship between the two countries. Mattis said last week’s sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah showed why Iran was regarded the “biggest destabilising force in the Middle East”. It also emphasised why a regional alliance to safeguard the interests of Arab nations was so crucial.
Terming terrorism as the biggest threat to the world, Mattis said nations must work together to bridge their differences to thwart terror. Terrorism is spreading, he said, and “we’ve got to protect what we’ve got”. Otherwise, he said, if terrorism spread unchecked terrorists would eventually get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
In conclusion, Mattis said the ongoing partnership between the UAE and the US was crucial to maintaining stability in the region, and keeping people safe in both the countries. He said the US-UAE strategic agreements, joint training, and weapons sales were key components of a broader bilateral partnership that – through diplomatic and economic as well as military measures – had contributed demonstrably to security in the Arabian Gulf region and the wider Middle East.