UAE ambassador 'yelled' at US representative opposing Yemen war

UAE ambassador to Washington 'yelled' at US representative opposing Yemen war
4 min read
13 February, 2021
Ro Khanna was a leading sponsor of the war powers resolution aimed at ending Washington's support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE's war efforts in war-torn Yemen.
Trump's administration provided crucial support for the UAE in Yemen [Getty]
UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba shouted at Democrat representative Ro Khanna during a meeting, expressing his anger towards Khanna's push to end US military backing for the destructive war in Yemen.

Khanna was a leading sponsor of the war powers resolution aimed at ending Washington's support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE's war efforts in war-torn Yemen.

"I've never had an ambassador of another country come to my office and literally yell at me, but that’s what I had with the ambassador to UAE," the California representative said in an interview with The Intercept’s podcast Deconstructed, referring to Otaiba.

"I was just taken away," Khanna said. "It led me to think that there's a real arrogance, a real sense of entitlement, a sense that he thought himself so powerful that he could act that way. And I've never really seen that before."

Khanna, who was sworn into office in January 2017, said he couldn't remember exactly when the meeting occurred.

"We met again once or twice and he toned it down in subsequent meetings, but I just thought this was an indication of how entrenched these interests were," Khanna said.

Richard Mintz of The Harbour Group, which represents the UAE in Washington DC, said that the ambassador denied Khanna's claims.     

Biden on February 4 pledged to end all "relevant" military support to Saudi-led forces in Yemen. 

Though the UAE welcomed Biden’s announcement and claimed it favoured a peace process for Yemen, Abu Dhabi has supported southern separatists to bolster its clout along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Last June, Emirati-backed militias seized the remote Yemeni island of Socotra, and numerous reports claim ongoing UAE support for southern forces, despite its claims of withdrawing from Yemen.

Donald Trump's administration provided crucial military support to Abu Dhabi in Yemen, which allowed it to proceed with its geopolitical objectives. 

Biden's admistration last month said it would review a Trump-sanctioned deal of F-35 fighter jets, armed drones and other military equipment to Abu Dhabi. But al-Otaiba said he is still confident that the transaction will go ahead. 

Read more: Why Biden's pledges to 'end' involvement in the Yemen war are not enough

Khanna said the Saudi ambassador was much more diplomatic, compared to her Emirati counterpart.

"I met the Saudi ambassador, in particular the new one," he said, referring to Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan.

"Of course, very much we disagree, and I have real moral concerns, but in conversation they're diplomatic and polite, saying how much they respect the perspective."                    

"What activists must now advocate for is for President Biden to say these words: 'All bombing and war funding to Yemen must stop'," Khanna said.

"Biden also should commit to a reconstruction fund, make a US pledge, and demand reparations from Saudi and UAE towards it.

"Finally, we need to apply pressure to lift the blockade. If we do all this, then we will still have to deal with a civil war in Yemen that predated the Saudi intervention. But that is more resolvable.

"We have a moral duty to act to end the war, not just wash our hands of it. We can always tell the Saudis we will stop providing tires for their airplanes if they continue to bomb."

Yemen's grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, according to international organisations, sparking what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The bloody power struggle erupted in 2014 between the Yemeni government, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and most of the north.

Today, millions of Yemenis are on the brink of famine with the economy destroyed, schools and hospitals barely functioning.

According to the United Nations, more than three million people have been displaced and close to 80 percent of the 29-million population is in need of some form of aid for survival.

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