Monday, August 3, 2009

Christopher Davidson's "Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond"

Christopher M. Davidson is a fellow of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University and a visiting associate professor at Kyoto University. A former assistant professor of political science at Sheikh Zayed University in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, he is the author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success and The United Arab Emirates: A Study in Survival.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond is a perfect microcosm of the 260 page volume. It a snapshot of a complex, multi-page narrative of who's who and who is doing what in mega oil-rich Abu Dhabi's ruling Al-Nahyan family: one of the world's few remaining dynastic traditional monarchies. In many ways the page's first paragraph contains one of the book's key lines, explaining what succession arrangements took place preceding the great Sheikh Zayed's death in 2004, and predicting who will become the future ruler of Abu Dhabi:

[the] aging Zayed took the unprecedented step of announcing Muhammad as his deputy crown prince in early 2004. This decision may have taken place as early as 1999 at a meeting in Geneva attended by members of the Al-Nahyan and Dubai’s Al-Maktum rulers. Regardless of the exact circumstances, Zayed had undoubtedly recognized a future ruler and had decided to find a compromise solution that would strengthen Muhammad yet protect Khalifa in equal measure.

The page's second paragraph then proceeds to list crown prince Sheikh Muhammad's full brothers and closest allies, detailing their various portfolios and appointments within Abu Dhabi's labyrinthine government and also the federal government of the United Arab Emirates, which is shared with Dubai and five smaller emirates. We learn, for example, that these brothers control foreign affairs, secret intelligence, the chairmanship of Abu Dhabi's second largest sovereign wealth fund – the International Petroleum Investments Company, the directorship of the UAE's presidential office, and the UAE's largest charitable organization – the Red Crescent Society. For readers in the US these sheikhs are now of particular relevance, as they are the most influential half brothers of Sheikh Issa, whose graphic and disturbing torture tapes were broadcast on ABC News and CNN earlier in 2009. Crucially, copies of these tapes were supplied to the crown prince and his brothers over a year ago and were also posted on, a site now blocked in the UAE. But Issa was only placed under house arrest in May 2009 when it seemed that the lucrative US-UAE nuclear deal might be derailed as a result of Abu Dhabi's indifference to the rule of law.
Read more about Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond at the Columbia University press website.

Visit Christopher M. Davidson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue