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Opinion
Bobby Ghosh

Saudi Arabia and the UAE Are on an Economic Collision Course

The Middle East’s most important alliance is being threatened by a common goal.

Come on down to Riyadh. 

Come on down to Riyadh. 

Photographer: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP

For several years now, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been in lockstep on foreign policy. The close friendship of their de facto rulers, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, is the Middle East’s most important alliance. It allows them to boss around the Gulf Cooperation Council, to the disquiet of other members, and set the agenda for the wider Arab world.

Better known as MBS and MBZ, the two leaders share a fear of Iran and a loathing of Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood. Their countries have formed coalitions with other Arab states to fight a war in Yemen and impose an (only recently lifted) embargo on Qatar. Beyond the Middle East, they have collaborated to broker a peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea and pursue military and security alliances in Asia and Africa. They have even, on occasion, pledged economic partnership, at home and farther afield.