Yousef Al Otaiba

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Yousef Al Otaiba
Deputy Secretary Biegun and UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba Participate in the Signing of the Enhanced Immunities Agreement with the United Arab Emirates (50329784108) (cropped).jpg
Otaiba in 2020
UAE Ambassador to the United States
Assumed office
28 July 2008
PresidentKhalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Preceded bySaqr Ghobash
Personal details
Born (1974-01-19) 19 January 1974 (age 48)
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Spouse(s)Abeer Al Otaiba
RelationsMoza Saeed Al Otaiba (aunt), Hend Al Otaiba (sister)
Parent(s)Mana Al Otaiba

Yousef Al Otaiba (Arabic: يوسف العتيبة) is the current United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States and Minister of state. Previously Al Otaiba served as non-resident ambassador to Mexico. His father is Petroleum magnate Mana Al Otaiba, who served as the president of OPEC a record six times.

Early life[edit]

Otaiba was born on 19 January 1974 in Abu Dhabi into a wealthy merchant family. His father was the UAE's first Minister of Petroleum, Mana Saeed Al Otaiba, one of the country's key non-royal founding members as well as a close confidant to the late UAE founder and President Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004). His father had at least 12 children with 4 wives, including Otaiba's Egyptian mother. Otaiba was raised in Cairo by his mother, from whom he is the only child. He went to Cairo American College, a pre-K–12 international American school, and, while there, introduced himself to Frank G. Wisner, then the US ambassador to Egypt.[1][2]

After completing high school in 1991, Al Otaiba studied international relations at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Up until December, 2020, The UAE embassy claimed that Otaiba obtained a degree in international relations from Georgetown University.[3] However, in 2017, The Intercept reported Georgetown University's office of the registrar claims he never graduated.[4][5]

After attending Georgetown, Otaiba spent the next three years working for the automotive division of his family's firm, the Al Otaiba Group. His father's firm lost the General Motors/Cadillac agency in Abu Dhabi after a bitter 11-year dispute over non-performance.[1] Otaiba was then selected to attend the International Fellow at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) at the National Defense University in Washington, in preparation for an assignment to join the immediate staff of then UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a position he assumed upon graduating from ICAF in 2000.[6] The former CENTCOM Commander, General Anthony Zinni was another of Otaiba's mentors.[2]

Otaiba and his wife, Abeer, founder of a luxury fashion company, have one son, Omar, and one daughter, Samia.[7]

Government career[edit]

Otaiba in 2013

At age 26, Otaiba became senior adviser to Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and, until his new posting, as director of international affairs for the court of the crown prince, he also served as the country's principal security, anti-terrorism and defence liaison with other governments. Bin Zayed was deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, so in effect Otaiba worked for the UAE's defense minister for eight years.[8]

In 2006 and 2007 Otaiba's role was described by Kristofer Harrison, a Defense and State Department advisor during the George W. Bush administration who worked closely with Otaiba, as "crucial helping to talk other countries in the region into backing President George W. Bush's troop surge in the Iraq War" - a role that was confirmed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr.[2] Otaiba's most significant contribution was "persuading other Gulfies to support the political components of the surge (e.g. the Anbar Awakening), and helping 'translate' the general strategy into something they would support".[2]

On 22 June 2008 Otaiba was elevated to UAE ambassador to the United States.[9] He succeeded Saqr Ghobash, who had served as ambassador since March 2006.[8] Upon his arriving in the capital, Otaiba hired Amy Little-Thomas, a former State Department staffer in the Bush administration, who became the UAE embassy's chief of protocol and created the nonprofit Oasis Foundation, his private foundation in connection with his work as ambassador "to advance positive relations between the UAE, a significant American ally (particularly in the Middle East), and the United States.” In 2016, a court ordered one of Oasis Foundation's board members to pay restitution for funds taken from the charity for personal expenditures - funds originally deposited and subsequently replenished by Otaiba.[10] Otaiba worked closely with Howard Berman, then the Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on an agreement that would allow the UAE to obtain nuclear materials from the US for a civilian program.[2]

In July 2010, remarks made by Otaiba were interpreted as supporting a United States military strike on nuclear reactors in Iran.[11] Otaiba's remarks were reported to have been the standard position of many Arab states.[12]

From 2015 onwards Otaiba was a leading voice in Washington for the War in Yemen, where the UAE operated torture warehouses[13] and funded death squads.[14] The conflict has left more than 10,000 dead, millions starving (Famine in Yemen) and a cholera epidemic of historic proportions.[4]

The UAE was the first nation to obtain the US military's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system - the first batch of UAE officers and airmen graduated from training on the system in December 2015.[15]

In the run-up to President Trump's Riyadh Summit with Islamic leaders on 20–21 May 2017 strong bonds reportedly formed between Otaiba and President Trump's advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and minister of defense Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.[16] Otaiba and Kushner first met June 2017 at the behest of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire investor and Trump backer.

Otaiba is generally seen as being a successful ambassador for the UAE, as the country asserts itself more aggressively in the sphere of foreign policy.[17] In November 2017 it was announced that he had been promoted to the rank of Minister, while remaining the ambassador to the United States.[18]

Otaiba (left) speaks to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in 2022

On 12 June 2020, Otaiba authored an op-ed in an effort to halt Israel's planned annexation of West Bank territory.[19] Otaiba's op-ed was addressed to the Israeli public and published on the front page of the Yedioth Ahronoth.[20] It was the first ever written by a Gulf diplomat and published in an Israeli newspaper.[20] Prior to publication, Otaiba solicited the advice of Israeli-American Businessman, Haim Saban, on when and where to place the op-ed and was advised that the op-ed ought to be translated to Hebrew.[21] In the op-ed, Otaiba expressed enthusiasm for stronger ties between Israel and UAE, touting the benefits of accelerated economic growth and stability throughout the Middle East in addition to security but said that Israeli plans for annexation and talk of normalization were a contradiction.[20][19] He elaborated that annexation and seizure of Palestinian land would defy the “international consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination”, warning that such a plan would “ignite violence and rouse extremists”.[20] On 2 July 2020, Otaiba met with Avi Berkowitz to further discuss a plan to prevent annexation.[21] Along with a mutual interest in creating a unified front against the opposing forces of Iran, the concerns detailed in Otaiba's op-ed and planning with Berkowitz helped bring vested parties to the negotiating table to identify a better solution,[21] ultimately resulting in a normalization agreement reached in August 2020[22] and officially committed to in September 2020 with the signing of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House.[23] The deal was brokered by the United States.[24] Both Saban and Al Otaiba credited U.S. leadership for helping to manage the negotiation process and deliver on the agreements.[21] “I think the United States government came through every single time,” Al Otaiba said. “And that's the reason we had the signing ceremony two weeks ago at the White House.”[21] Otaiba also recognized Berkowitz, Jared Kushner and Brig. Gen. Miguel Correa for their efforts,[21] whereas Correa became involved after playing a part in a 2017 U.S. coordinated rescue operation in Yemen that brought UAE soldiers and a member of the royal family to safety after their helicopter crashed.[25] Otaiba said he spoke to them more than anyone else in the weeks leading up to the agreement and if it wasn't for them the deal probably wouldn't have been done - noting the amount of trust required.[21] The 2020 deal marked the first time anyone had normalized ties with Israel since Jordan in 1994,[23] opening the doors for others to follow suit.[23][26][27][24] In August 2020, Otaiba issued a statement extolling the Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement as "a win for diplomacy and for the region",[28] adding how it "lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change".[29]

Otaiba yelled at Representative Ro Khanna over his efforts to end US involvement in the Yemeni Civil War.[30]

He is a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington DC.


Ambassador Al Otaiba is closely associated with philanthropic causes in the United States and around the world, including Children's National Hospital in Washington D.C, Tornado Relief in Joplin Missouri, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, The Community Soccer Program, and global polio eradication efforts.[31][32][33][34][35][36] Former President Bill Clinton recognized the Ambassador for his philanthropic involvement at the 2017 Interaction Forum.[37]

In 2014, Al Otaiba and his wife, Abeer, co-chaired the Children's Ball, which raised a record $10.9 million for Children's National, making it the most successful nonprofit fundraiser in Washington's history.[38][39] Both the ambassador and his wife have served as partners and advocates for children in the Washington area and around the world. In 2015, the Ambassador and Mrs. Al Otaiba were the recipients of the second annual Joseph E. Robert Jr. Prize in Philanthropy created to honor families who have given back to the hospital, after having a personal experience with the institution.[38] The prize is named for philanthropist and business leader Joseph E. Robert Jr.[38]


In early June 2017, an anonymous hacker group named GlobaLeaks began distributing emails to multiple news outlets that they had hacked from the inbox of Al Otaiba.[40] According to The New York Times, the hacked emails appeared to benefit Qatar and be the work of hackers working for Qatar, a common subject of the distributed emails.[41] One leaked email alleged that Otaiba loaned ex-Al Jazeera journalist and Otaiba's high school friend, Mohamed Fahmy, $250,000 to cover his legal fees in his $100 million lawsuit against Al Jazeera and Qatar.[41] Another leaked email alleged that the UAE supported moving the US military base Al Udeid Air Base and the Taliban embassy out of Qatar.[40][42] A third leaked email alleged that Otaiba hired Banque Havilland to draw up a plan on how to start a financial war against Qatar.[43] A selection of other emails were leaked relating to alleged UAE payments to U.S. lobbying firms,[44] Otaiba finances tied to 1Malaysia Development Berhad,[45] a $250,000 UAE invoice for information related to the exportation of military-grade drones,[46] Otaiba's criticism of Saudi decision making,[47] and an inside account of Otaiba's nightlife and relationship with women prior to becoming Ambassador, although Otaiba's friend confirmed no wrongdoing by Otaiba in an interview with The Intercept[48] and the Daily Beast said the leaked emails fell short of the explosive revelations hinted at in GlobaLeaks's cover letter.[49] GlobaLeaks stated that their intent behind the emails was to expose the UAE's efforts to manipulate the U.S. government, but denied allegiance to Qatar, or any other government mentioned in the emails.[41] At the time, The Huffington Post suggested that, regardless of intent, the revelations were capable of dramatically undermining U.S. goals in the Middle East and that the leaked emails were being used to embarrass “Washington's Most Powerful Ambassador”.[40] Since then, in 2020, Al Otaiba successfully helped the U.S. navigate negotiations with multiple Middle Eastern entities, brokering an historic peace deal between Israel and UAE and prompting others to do the same.[24][21]

See also[edit]


  2. ^ a b c d e Ahmed, Ryan Grim and Akbar Shahid. "The Most Charming Man In Washington". The Huffington Post.
  3. ^ "Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba | UAE Embassy in Washington, DC". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= is malformed: flag (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Ryan Grim: Diplomatic Underground: The Sordid Double Life of Washington's Most Powerful Ambassador, The Intercept, 30 August 2017
  5. ^ After Jan, 2021, the UAE embassy just notes that Al Otaiba "studied international relations from Georgetown University in Washington, DC"
  6. ^ "Yousef Al Otaiba". Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
  7. ^ "Abeer Al Otaiba". Harper's BAZAAR Arabia.
  8. ^ a b Naylor, Hugh (July 30, 2008). "Bush welcomes new Ambassador to US". The National. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  9. ^ "New Envoy to US Yousuf Manei Al Otaiba sworn in". Gulf News. June 22, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  10. ^ "Former Executive Director of Charity". The United States Attorney's Office. United States Department of Justice. February 22, 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  11. ^ Black, Ian (7 July 2010). "UAE ambassador backs strike on Iran's nuclear sites". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  12. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey (6 July 2010). "Why the UAE's Position on Iran Is Not Particularly New". Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  13. ^ "In Yemen's secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates". Associated Press. 13 August 2021.
  14. ^ In Aden, Yemeni activists still live in fear
  15. ^ "Lobbying 2016: UAE cements US ties with massive lobbying operation - Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East".
  16. ^ Karni, Annie. "Inside Jared Kushner's circle of trust". POLITICO.
  17. ^ Overdahl, Stian. "The UAE's Man in Washington". Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba promoted to Minister". WAM. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  19. ^ a b Al Otaiba, Yousef (12 June 2020). "Annexation will be a serious setback for better relations with the Arab world". ynetnews. YNetNews. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d Ahren, Raphael (June 12, 2020). "In first-ever op-ed for Israeli paper, UAE diplomat warns against annexation". Times of Israel. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Zieve Cohen, Sam (30 September 2020). "UAE's Al Otaiba goes behind the scenes of the Abraham Accords". Jewish Insider. The Jewish Insider. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  22. ^ Federico-O'Murchú, Seán (August 13, 2020). "Read: Full US-Israel-UAE statement on normalizing relations". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  23. ^ a b c PTI (16 September 2020). "Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign Abraham Accord; Trump says "dawn of new Middle East"". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  24. ^ a b c Bariyo, Felicia Schwartz and Nicholas (23 October 2020). "Israel, Sudan Agree to Normalize Ties in U.S.-Brokered Deal". Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  25. ^ Nissenbaum, Dion (19 October 2020). "A Secret U.S. Rescue in Yemen Played a Role in Mideast Peace Deal". Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  26. ^ Suliman, Adela (October 23, 2020). "Sudan formally recognizes Israel in U.S.-brokered deal". NBC News. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  27. ^ Schwartz, Felicia (18 August 2020). "Sudan in Talks to Formalize Ties With Israel". Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  28. ^ "Israel and UAE strike historic deal to normalise relations". BBC News. 13 August 2020.
  29. ^ "Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba Statement Regarding Announcement Between Israel and United Arab Emirates" (Press release). Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Washington, D.C.
  30. ^ Grim, Ryan. "Gulf Ambassador Yelled at Member of Congress Pushing to End Yemen War". The Intercept. Retrieved 2021-02-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ "Childrens National Honors Al Otaibas for Commitment to Children | Children's National". Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  32. ^ Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (February 17, 2013). "United Arab Emirates helps Joplin "think big" in rebuilding tornado-scarred schools". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  33. ^ "UAE donates $4.5 million to N.J. for Superstorm Sandy recovery". UPI. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  34. ^ "UAE and City pitch in together for LA". The National. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  35. ^ "Abu Dhabi Crown Prince donates $30m to support polio eradication efforts". Arabian Business. June 13, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  36. ^ Cleveland Metropolitan School District (2018-06-27), United Arab Emirates ambassador dedicates field, plays soccer with Cleveland students, retrieved 2019-05-02
  37. ^ Heretik, Jack (2017-06-20). "Bill Clinton Just Praised a Major Human Rights Abuser as "The Face of Social Justice"". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  38. ^ a b c "Childrens National Honors Al Otaibas for Commitment to Children | Children's National". Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  39. ^ Ahmed, Ryan Grim and Akbar Shahid. "The Most Charming Man In Washington". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  40. ^ a b c Ahmed, Akbar Shahid (3 June 2017). "Someone Is Using These Leaked Emails To Embarrass Washington's Most Powerful Ambassador". HuffPost. Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  41. ^ a b c Kirkpatrick, David D. (1 July 2017). "Journalist Joins His Jailer's Side in a Bizarre Persian Gulf Feud (Published 2017)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  42. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (31 July 2017). "Persian Gulf Rivals Competed to Host Taliban, Leaked Emails Show (Published 2017)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  43. ^ Grim, Ryan; Walsh, Ben (9 November 2017). "Leaked Documents Expose Stunning Plan to Wage Financial War on Qatar — and Steal the World Cup". The Intercept. The Intercept. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  44. ^ "Ambassador from United Arab Emirates to the U.S.: Who Is Yousef Al Otaiba?". AllGov. AllGov. July 18, 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  45. ^ Wright, Bradley Hope and Tom (30 June 2017). "U.A.E.'s Ambassador to U.S. Linked to 1MDB Scandal". Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  46. ^ Jilani, Zaid; Emmons, Alex (30 July 2017). "Hacked Emails Show UAE Building Close Relationship With D.C. Think Tanks That Push Its Agenda". The Intercept. The Intercept. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  47. ^ "'F***in' coo coo': UAE envoy mocks Saudi leadership in leaked email". Middle East Eye. Middle East Eye. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  48. ^ Grim, Ryan (30 August 2017). "Otaiba Nightlife - Interview with Roman Paschal". The Intercept. The Intercept. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  49. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (2 June 2017). "Daily Beast - Ambassador Emails Forthcoming". The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast. Retrieved 28 October 2020.

External links[edit]