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 Defence 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, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, 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.
Since the First Gulf War, the UAE has partnered with the US in every major US-led military coalition, other than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The UAE has joined with the US in actions in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya, and the campaign against the 'Islamic State' (Daesh) in Syria and Iraq. The UAE is the only Arab country to participate in six coalition actions with the US. In turn, the US provided logistics and intelligence support for UAE operations in Yemen.
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.
Mattis, who enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1969 and became an officer a couple of years later, said the UAE lives by the rules and was well-respected internationally. The general said UAE was looked upon as an ancient Athens for its education and culture and as an ancient Sparta for its military might. He went on to say that the UAE had a reputation for tolerance and compassion, as evidenced by the Pope's visit in February, and added that the recent Special Olympics World Games hosted in Abu Dhabi was commonly regarded as the best-ever.
Mattis, who admitted to being extremely fond of the UAE, said the UAE showed the strength of traditional diplomacy and must fight to keep its values intact. How many countries have observed a Year of Tolerance, he asked rhetorically.
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.
The lecture was also attended by H.H. Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman; H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Deputy Ruler of Umm Al Qaiwain; H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah; H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region; Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of Federal National Council, FNC; H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Mohammed Al Nahyan; H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation; H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court; H.H. Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination; H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport; Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahad bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Minister of State; Boubou Cisse, Prime Minister of Mali, along with a number of Sheikhs, members of the diplomatic corps and VIPs.
Source: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs