The Economist recently highlighted the contrast between post-revolt Asian societies and Middle Eastern and North African societies in the woes of a pro-longed, messy and bloody transition that is pockmarked by revolt and counter-revolt, sectarianism, the redrawing of post-colonial borders, and the rise of retrograde groups as revolutionary forces.
When they meet next month, President Obama should look beyond UAE's fancy PR campaign and ask Sheikh Mohammed why peaceful critics are in jail, why their lawyers are intimidated from representing them and their witnesses harassed, and why the UAE thinks the best way to fight terrorism is with repression.
The current Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, designed to prevent Iranian-backed forces from gaining power, symbolizes the Gulf's new assertiveness. This is unfolding as the various Gulf states seek to hedge their bets with different strategies that complement, rather than replace, the regional US security umbrella.
Projecting an image of being politically and culturally on the cutting edge, the UAE carefully picks its battles. Participation in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq, has projected the Emirates as a military force to be reckoned with. Soccer is the Emirates' next target.
Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's efforts to lend legitimacy to parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring have gotten off to a murky start with the appointment of a controversial, reportedly United Arab Emirates-backed human rights NGO as one of five foreign election monitors.