Why is this interesting? - The Hidden Diplomacy Edition

On Middle Eastern politics, personal relationships, and a historic deal

We are covering the following story because we are interested in the unseen figures and dealmakers that play a role in history. We’re not weighing in on the ethics and humanitarian issues of the UAE’s role in Yemen. This is focused on a personal relationship that led to a historical pact. - Colin (CJN) 

Colin here. Amidst the chaos of the current news cycle, it was easy to miss some great reporting from the WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum that outlined an interesting backstory behind the making of the recent UAE and Israel peace deal. 

It is a story of a little-reported rescue mission in Yemen, a relationship of trust that developed between Emiratis and an American Major General, and the hidden machinations that led to one of the larger pieces of diplomatic news in recent memory: the Israel-U.A.E. peace deal.

It started with a rescue mission in 2017. The WSJ reports:

On Aug. 11, 2017, a United Arab Emirates helicopter filled with soldiers taking part in an offensive against al Qaeda militants crashed in Yemen, leaving three soldiers dead and seven seriously wounded, including a young member of the royal family.

As Emirati leaders scrambled to rescue their soldiers, they turned to the U.S. and asked America to organize an urgent rescue mission.

In a matter of hours, according to U.S. military officials, American special operations forces rushed to save the Emirati royal and the other soldiers. 

Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa was the American military leader at the center of the mission, and it was a serious effort: special diplomatic access was given for the injured Emirati nationals to fly to Germany to receive treatment from American trauma surgeons and in a particularly vivid detail from the piece, “...The medical team used 54 of 66 units of blood, making it the largest such ‘walking blood bank’ the Navy has used since World War II, said Capt. Urban.”

Why is this interesting? 

Though no one could have known it at the time, this action from US soldiers, and the resulting relationship created between Maj. Gen. Correa and the Emiratis, laid the building blocks of trust that ended up supporting the peace process between the UAE and Israel. 

As Correa moved from his role in Abu Dhabi in the UAE into a role as senior director for Gulf affairs for the NSC, he became a hidden asset and important relationship in the eventual peace deal. The Journal continues:

In late July, Gen. Correa, who was dubbed the “Arab Whisperer” by his colleagues, flew to Abu Dhabi for a one-on-one meeting with Prince Mohammed. They talked through details of the deal and Gen. Correa reassured the Emirati leader that the U.S. would ensure the terms were honored, according to U.S. officials.

Before the meeting began, Prince Mohammed invited his son-in-law—the one rescued in Yemen that day in 2017—to see Gen. Correa. The young U.A.E. royal rolled in, smiling from his wheelchair.

Until now, the U.A.E. and U.S. military have never acknowledged that American forces saved the young royal that day. And the story is an interesting reminder that beyond the layers of diplomacy, of regional interest, of personalities, and of conflict, that sometimes the human factor is the thing that helps get a deal across the line. (CJN)

Chart of the day:

Was pretty surprised by this graph of hotel occupancy rates by week. As bad as things are, it’s amazing that hotels are only about 10% under 2009 levels. Obviously it’s not good, but better than I would have imagined. (NRB)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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