A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gulf Blog: PR and the Ras al-Khaimah Succession

UPDATE: For a different take on this issue, see the comment below by David Mack, a former US Ambassador to the UAE (and former VP of MEI).

My Gosh. A year and a half of blogging without a post about Ras al-Khaimah, and now here's my second link in a week.

This time it's a post by David Roberts of the Gulf Blog, which also ran in Daily News Egypt, called "A Rentier Coup in a Rentier State." The Ruler, Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi (above, left), who took power in 1948 and is 92 and dying, exiled his original crown prince a few years back and replaced him with his brother, Sheikh Sa‘ud (right) who is also Deputy Ruler. Now the exiled ex, Sheikh Khalid (below, left), is lobbying for the succession. How? PR: PR apparently aimed at the Americans. Among other things, he has this slick English-language website, and is promoting himself in the West. An interesting piece about an emirate that most people (emphatically including myself) know little about.


David Mack said...

Some of the allegations in David Roberts' blog are very erroneous. Unless things have changed greatly in the last year or so, Deputy Ruler and Crown Prince of RAK Shaikh Saud is both pro-American (inter alia, he is a graduate of Michigan State) and anti-Iranian. I understood that Shaikh Khaled was deposed from his position with the support of the ruling families of both Abu Dhabi and Dubai for reasons that had little to do with foreign policy. Reportedly, it had a great deal to do with the allegedly overly progressive political salon of Khalid's wife, a non-Emiri woman.

The animus of Shaikh Saqr and his sons toward Iran goes back to 1970 and the Iranian seizure of the Tunbs Islands on the eve of UAE independence. This happened with the acquiescence of Great Britain, which was supposed to be protecting "trucial" states like Ras al-Khaimah. Shaikh Saqr was, understandably, very fired up about it and sent his eldest son Khalid to various Arab states and to the U.S. seeking support to expel the Iranians. No one was prepared to take action to do what the British could have done, although Libyan did nationalize the BP managed oil concession in eastern Libya and renamed it "The Arabian Gulf Oil Company." Small comfort to Shaikh Saqr!

David B Roberts said...

I was neither attempting to insinuate that Sheikh Saud is anti-American nor pro-Iranian. What Iranian links there are between RAK and Iran, I sought to put into some local context to temper the 'over the top' allegations of the PR report.

At a recent Gulf conference I spoke to various people about this situation. They confirmed what you mention regarding his wife. His inability to 'control' her and her actions (burning of the flag, I believe, in a rally), being the major precipitant of his demise. This aspect is missing from my article, though I must say that I clearly did not claim to offer a definitive reason for his 'departure'.

Thanks for taking the time to offer the clarification.

Re: the Brits and the Tunb islands, though I'm no expert in this micro-conflict, I think that it's a lot more complicated than you state. Given that the UK was leaving because of over commitment in a time of budgetary crisis, could it really have taken them back from Iran? I'm not so sure.