Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gathered local journalists in Riyadh for a rare
off-the-record briefing in December and delivered a stunning message. The country’s ally
of decades, the United Arab Emirates, had “stabbed us in the back,” he said.
“They will see what I can do,” he told the group, according to people at the meeting.
A rift has opened up between the 37-year-old Mohammed and his onetime mentor, U.A.E.
President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that reflects a competition for
geopolitical and economic power in the Middle East and global oil markets. The two
royals, who spent almost a decade climbing to the top of the Arab world, are now feuding
over who calls the shots in a Middle East where the U.S. plays a diminished role.
U.S. officials said they worry that the Gulf rivalry could make it harder to create a unified
security alliance to counter Iran, end the eight-year-old war in Yemen and expand Israel’s
diplomatic ties with Muslim nations.
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