Opinion: Dubai, Riyad need rule of law if they value U.S. partnership
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among the closest U.S. partners in the Middle East.
Both countries are also thirsty for further foreign investment to continue their rapid growth and development. However, the general lack of transparency to say nothing of the rule of law only complicates efforts to woo American business.
This became even more apparent with the Global Justice Foundation’s launch last month.
The new entity, backed by former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, was initiated by international businessman Omar Ayesh.
Ayesh has accused the United Arab Emirates, which consists of seven city-states each run by an emir, of covering up $1.85 billion in alleged real estate fraud involving a property development company by the name of Tameer Holding. Further adding to the complexity is the direct involvement by a minister in the cabinet of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has touted reforms in the kingdom to would-be investors from abroad.
Ayesh took his case to the U.A.E. courts, but 11 years have passed and there has been no resolution. Most observers think that is an unusually long period of time, even by Middle Eastern standards. Regardless of how the case turns out — assuming there is ever a resolution — it is illustrative of what too many businesses have encountered in the Middle East.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two big U.A.E. cities, are known the world over for their extravagance and not their commitment to transparency or an independent judiciary rooted in the rule of law.
Cue Powell and Starr. Their involvement in the Global Justice Foundation carries a lot of weight, both in Congress and in the administration of President Donald Trump.
Powell said the United Arab Emirates needs to do more than pay “lip service to the rule of law.” Starr echoed that sentiment in speaking to reporters during the foundation’s launch at the National Press Club.
“No one is above the law is easy to say and hard to achieve, especially when you have power,” Starr said. “There needs to be an avenue where disputes, commercial and otherwise, can be quickly and fairly addressed.”
Such avenues do not exist, despite both the Saudi crown prince and the U.A.E. prime minister saying they support reform.
The bottom line: American and other foreign investors will not have faith in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as attractive destinations for their business and investments if corruption at the highest levels of government is tolerated and financial crimes by the well-connected go unpursued or are left unresolved.
Cases such as Tameer will ultimately decide the future of these two countries as well as the broader Middle East. Will the United Arab Emirates safeguard reforms to create a stable and certain operating environment, or will it look the other way on corruption and the flaunting of the rule of law?
Saul Anuzis is president of 60 Plus and a former Michigan Republican Party chairman.