To resolve these problems, King Salman and his Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman, are relying on ′Vision 2030′, a plan to make the state and the economy less oil-dependent.

But this means additional economic pressure on the young, which Saudi leaders are trying to make bearable for the people by granting them greater social freedoms. In order to implement these reforms, the Saudi Crown Prince has also purged potential challengers within the royal family as far as possible.

The rulers of the UAE are facing similar challenges. They also move against any form of opposition, particularly if it shares the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. But economically speaking, they are in a more comfortable position. This is because with a significantly smaller population and territory, there is more of the huge oil revenues to go around.

Gitex 2017 Ruyaa (′Vision 2030′) in the Saudi Arabian pavilion (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Heralding an economic transition via modernisation and diversification: to resolve these problems, King Salman and his Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman, are relying on ′Vision 2030′, a plan to make the state and the economy less oil-dependent

Moreover, those in power in the UAE have already diversified the economy to a considerably greater extent, something that has earned them high esteem among the population. On the other hand, the ruling dynasty does not maintain an alliance with an influential clergy that could protect its position of power against challenges from an Islamist opposition. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is one of the most intransigent opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. The same applies to several of his key advisers.

United in their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood

These factors exert a considerable influence on the foreign policy of both Gulf states. Since 2011 they have positioned themselves against the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in its motherland Egypt. In this endeavour, between the toppling of the Egyptian President and Muslim Brother Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 and 2015 alone, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have paid donations and credits worth approximately 27 billion USD to Cairo.

The embargo against Qatar imposed in June 2017 also needs to be viewed in this context. Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in the Arab world as a whole, as well as its sheltering of dissidents and other supporters of the organisation and its regional affiliations, are a decisive reason for the aggressive treatment of the emirate.

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