New book by Baker Institute's Coates Ulrichsen explores the United Arab Emirates' rise

January 05, 2017

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become deeply embedded in the contemporary system of international power, politics and policymaking, according to a new book by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

He writes about the political and economic developments that have enabled the UAE to emerge as a significant regional power.

"The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics and Policy-Making," published by Routledge, hit bookstores in December. The 270-page book draws on extensive field research in the country and analysis to position the UAE as a major player in the post-Arab Spring reordering of Middle East and North African politics as well as the closest partner of the United States in military and security affairs in the region.

The book also explores the seamier underside of that growth in terms of the condition of migrant workers, recent interventions in Libya and Yemen and, latterly, one of the highest rates of political prisoners per capita in the world. The book concludes with a discussion of the likely policy challenges that the UAE will face in coming years, especially as it moves toward its 50th anniversary in 2021.

Along with its neighbor, Qatar, the UAE has "challenged the existing academic literature on the role of small states in the international system," said Coates Ulrichsen, whose research examines political, economic and security trends in the Middle East and, in particular, the Gulf Cooperation Council states' changing position within the global order. "Opportunities for small states to make their voice heard have proliferated in today's intensely globalized environment where concepts of power of influence are projected through multiple channels and are less reliant on territorial or population size than ever before."

Led by its most populous emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE has been an independent state only since 1971. The seven emirates that constitute the UAE represent not only the most successful Arab federal experiment but also the most durable, Coates Ulrichsen said. However, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath underscored the continuing imbalance between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the five northern emirates. Meanwhile, the post-2011 security crackdown revealed the acute sensitivity of officials in Abu Dhabi to social inequalities and economic disparities across the federation, Coates Ulrichsen said.

"I hope this book will be a vital resource for students and scholars of international relations and Middle East studies as well as for nonspecialists with an interest in the United Arab Emirates and its global position," Coates Ulrichsen said.

Rice University

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