Washington Institute for Near East Policy Honors a UAE War Criminal

The decision by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) to honor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan spits in the faces of the 100,000 Yemenis the United Arab Emirates has helped kill over the past six years.

Bin Zayed (popularly known as “MBZ”) has been the Emirates’ de facto ruler since his brother’s stroke in 2014.  In 2015, bin Zayed joined the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the head of a coalition of Arab states which intervened in Yemen, ostensibly at the request of Yemen’s government, after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels overthrew Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.  Bin Zayed’s crucial role in launching an unprovoked war is not mentioned in WINEP’s press release naming him as the latest recipient of their Scholar-Statesman Award.

The United States abets the Saudi-UAE coalition with intelligence, targeting assistance, spare parts for coalition aircraft, arms sales, and (until November 2018) in-flight refueling of coalition warplanes.  Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama took the US into the war in order to mollify the Gulf states who opposed Obama’s prospective Iran nuclear deal.  Yemenis speak of the “Saudi-American war.”

President Joe Biden pledged on February 4 to end US support for “offensive operations” in Yemen.  Yet Biden has continued to provide crucial assistance, such as the servicing of coalition warplanes by US-authorized contractors. Experts such as Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution maintain that coalition warplanes would be “grounded” without American maintenance.

Saudi-UAE bombing attacks have killed some 20,000 Yemeni civilians.  An August 9, 2018 airstrike on a school bus using a bomb manufactured by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin killed 40 children.  UAE airstrikes continued even after the UAE completed its phased withdrawal of ground troops last year.

Coalition bombing targets civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and water-treatment plants.  Half of Yemen’s hospitals and medical clinics have been destroyed or forced to close.  A coalition naval blockade prevents ships carrying urgently needed food, fuel, and medicine from docking in Yemen for periods up to 100 days.  CNN senior correspondent Nima Elbagir reports seeing “hundreds” of trucks loaded with rotting food outside Yemen’s principal port of Hodeidah.  The trucks are stranded because they have no fuel.  Kamel Jendoubi, Chair of the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, reported to the UN Security Council in December 2020 that “Civilians in Yemen are not starving; they’re being starved by the parties to the conflict.”

A child under the age of five dies every ten minutes.  Dengue fever, cholera, diphtheria, and now Covid-19, are rampant.  The UN has called Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” with roughly 80% of Yemen’s population dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.  The Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Save the Children, and other aid groups do what they can with deliveries of food, but cannot keep up with the country’s constantly growing need as Yemen slides towards famine.

An “Oscar” for War Criminals

Bin Zayed bears his share of responsibility for the catastrophe in Yemen.  Why is WINEP honoring a war criminal?[1]

The answer is Israel.  The Scholar-Statesman award is WINEP’s way of thanking the Crown Prince for his service to Israel last year in securing the Abraham Accords.

WINEP was conceived so as to pass off pro-Israel lobbying as objective scholarship.  According to political scientists John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), WINEP is part of the “core” of the Israel lobby in the US (p. 113).  WINEP was created in 1985 by three principals from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the premier Israel advocacy group in the US:  former AIPAC president, Larry Weinberg; his wife Barbi, AIPAC vice president; and Martin Indyk, AIPAC deputy director for research who would go on to important posts in the Clinton Administration (p. 175).

WINEP’s September 14 press release declares that it is honoring the Crown Prince’s “leadership in securing the breakthrough peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.”

The “peace agreement” alluded to is the Abraham Accords, which were signed by the US, UAE, and Israel in August 2020.  WINEP likes the Abraham Accords because they normalize relations between Israel and the UAE, an Israeli objective.  In return, Israel has dropped its objections to a $23 billion arms sale to the UAE negotiated in the last days of the Trump Administration.  The Accords are a win for everyone except the Yemenis killed by UAE arms.

Mohammed bin Zayed deserves a prison cell, not an award.  Too bad MBZ is unlikely to be dragged off to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.  Yemenis should commission an award of their own for the Crown Prince:  a statuette of a pair of bloody hands.  Bin Zayed has earned it.[2]


[1]  This will not be the first time.  One past recipient of WINEP’s Scholar-Statesman Award was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Think of the award as an “Oscar” for war criminals.

[2]  As I was finishing this article, I ran across this story: “Vatican Foundation Honors Abu Dhabi Crown Prince with ‘Man of Humanity’ Award,” Catholic News Agency, July 9, 2021.  I may stay off the Internet for a few days.

Charles Pierson is a lawyer and a member of the Pittsburgh Anti-Drone Warfare Coalition. E-mail him at Chapierson@yahoo.com.