Map of United Arab Emirates

The World Today for December 21, 2021

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Just Business

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The United Arab Emirates recently made Sunday a day off, putting the Persian Gulf kingdom in step with the Western world’s workweek. In most Arab countries, the workweek runs from Sunday to Thursday, as Friday is a Muslim holy day. UAE citizens will now have a four-and-a-half workweek that ends at noon on Friday just before prayer time.

The move “enhances the integration of the national economy with the various economies and global markets and ensures the matching of the days of exchanges and commercial and financial transactions,” Emirati officials said in a statement to the New York Times.

It was also a sign of how UAE is realigning itself vis-à-vis the Gulf region and wider world.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently met, for example, with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s preeminent leader. The historic first came a year after Israel and the UAE signed an accord that has led to billions of dollars of commerce and technology exchanges between the two countries, CNBC reported.

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The UAE has also reversed its previous opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal that President Barack Obama negotiated with Iran and other countries but which President Donald Trump then abandoned, added the Washington Post. UAE leaders viewed the deal, which involved the US dropping sanctions in return for Iran’s promise not to develop nuclear weapons, as potentially empowering Iran. The UAE is a majority Sunni Muslim country allied with Saudi Arabia while Iran is a majority Shiite Muslim nation.

Meanwhile, UAE officials have been pursuing efforts to improve relations with the mullahs in Tehran, too. The UAE’s national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently visited Iran, wrote Al Jazeera, in order to cool tensions in the region.

A recent crisis between the UAE, China and US is another indicator of how the former is trying to push in a new direction.

As the Financial Times explained, Emirati leaders recently canceled talks over a $23 billion deal to buy American high-tech fighter jets. The deal was part of Trump’s arranging the UAE’s 2020 accord with Israel. But President Joe Biden, who was skeptical of the deal, then caused consternation in Abu Dhabi when he sought to limit the UAE’s purchase of Chinese 5G telecommunication technology. The UAE canceled the order in retaliation.

At around the same time, the UAE finalized a $19 billion deal with France to buy French fighter jets, Politico reported. The purchase appeared to be comeuppance for the US undercutting French efforts to sell submarines to Australia.

Was the UAE trying to snub the US? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, UAE diplomats could plausibly say the French transaction was just business.

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