First established in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah and Sharjah. This small, oil-rich confederation plays a major role in the oil and finance industries of the Persian Gulf. Due to its size, and the proximity of larger, more powerful neighbors, security concerns have been a major focus of the UAE’s foreign relations. Since the 1991 Gulf war, the government has forged a close relationship with the United States, which has sold billions of dollars in sophisticated military hardware to fortify UAE security forces. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the US, freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.
Lay of the Land: In southwest Asia along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and the western reaches of the Gulf of Oman are seven tiny sheikdoms–Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ra al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain, and Ajman, which joined together in 1971-1972 to form the United Arab Emirates.
Originally the area now occupied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inhabited by a seafaring people who were converted to Islam in the 7th century. Later, a dissident sect, the Carmathians, established a powerful sheikdom, and its army conquered Mecca. After the sheikdom disintegrated, its people became pirates. Threatening the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman early in the 19th century, the pirates provoked the intervention of the British, who in 1820 enforced a partial truce and in 1853 a permanent truce. From that point on, the Pirate Coast became known as the Trucial Coast. The British provided the nine Trucial states with protection but did not formally administer them as a colony.
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The United States was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE and has had an ambassador resident in the UAE since 1974.
Private commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have developed into friendly government-to-government ties which include security assistance between the UAE and the US. In 2002, the two countries began a strategic partnership dialogue covering virtually every aspect of the relationship. Since then, the UAE has been a key partner in the US war on terrorism. UAE ports host more American Navy ships than any port outside the US.
The UAE is the largest export market for the United States in the Arab world and, in 2009, was the 19th largest export market, ahead of Spain, Ireland and Indonesia. The UAE buys products from every state in the United States. US imports from the UAE rose by 38% between 2000 and 2007, from $971.7 million to $1.34 billion.
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According to the State Department, “UAE courts implementing Shari’a (Islamic law) sometimes imposed flogging sentences on Muslims and non-Muslims as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, defamation of character, and drug or alcohol abuse. Authorities used canes to administer floggings, which left substantial bruising, welts, and open wounds on the recipients’ bodies.”
Note: During Stolzfus' tenure as non-resident Ambassador, the Embassy in Abu Dhabi was established on May 15, 1972, with Philip J. Griffin as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
Yousef Al Otaiba became the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States and Mexico in July 2008. Al Otaiba attended Cairo American College before obtaining a degree in international relations from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He also attended the Industrial College of the US Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington, DC as an International Fellow.
A career diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East, Michael H. Corbin was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 5, 2011, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30. He was sworn in on July 25.
Richard Olson became US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates on September 23, 2008. A graduate of Brown University in 1981, where he received an AB in Law and Society (Honors) and History, Olson joined the Foreign Service in 1982.