How to thoroughly annoy a potentially friendly Middle Eastern country

In the past eight months, the United States has done a bang-up job of befriending the United Arab Emirates, a decentralized Gulf country that wants to be the trading hub for the Middle East. First, there was the whole Dubai Ports World fiasco. That, of course, helped the U.S.-UAE free trade agreement stall out. And ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

In the past eight months, the United States has done a bang-up job of befriending the United Arab Emirates, a decentralized Gulf country that wants to be the trading hub for the Middle East. First, there was the whole Dubai Ports World fiasco. That, of course, helped the U.S.-UAE free trade agreement stall out. And now the Economist Cities Guide reports that the port of Dubai has further reason to be ticked off at the United States: Many Dubai residents are threatening to boycott American universities in protest against seemingly discriminatory security practices. The catalyst came on August 21st when immigration officials at Los Angeles International Airport detained Saif Khalifa al-Sha?ali, a 26-year-old student from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and his wife and three children. The family was questioned for 26 hours until the UAE embassy intervened. Mr al-Sha'ali, who was completing a doctorate in computer science at Claremont University, also happens to be the nephew of Mohammad Hussain al-Sha?ali, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs. Scores of UAE nationals?and many expatriate residents?have written to local newspapers pledging to boycott American universities, which traditionally have been popular with Emiratis. The case has also inflamed general anti-American sentiment in the UAE?normally one of the more sympathetic Arab states?as it comes on the heels of the recent fighting in Lebanon, in which America was perceived to have backed Israel.

In the past eight months, the United States has done a bang-up job of befriending the United Arab Emirates, a decentralized Gulf country that wants to be the trading hub for the Middle East. First, there was the whole Dubai Ports World fiasco. That, of course, helped the U.S.-UAE free trade agreement stall out. And now the Economist Cities Guide reports that the port of Dubai has further reason to be ticked off at the United States:

Many Dubai residents are threatening to boycott American universities in protest against seemingly discriminatory security practices. The catalyst came on August 21st when immigration officials at Los Angeles International Airport detained Saif Khalifa al-Sha?ali, a 26-year-old student from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and his wife and three children. The family was questioned for 26 hours until the UAE embassy intervened. Mr al-Sha’ali, who was completing a doctorate in computer science at Claremont University, also happens to be the nephew of Mohammad Hussain al-Sha?ali, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs. Scores of UAE nationals?and many expatriate residents?have written to local newspapers pledging to boycott American universities, which traditionally have been popular with Emiratis. The case has also inflamed general anti-American sentiment in the UAE?normally one of the more sympathetic Arab states?as it comes on the heels of the recent fighting in Lebanon, in which America was perceived to have backed Israel.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Twitter: @dandrezner

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