In wide-ranging comments, Sheikh Abdullah reaffirmed the U.A.E.'s opposition to Da'esh, (ISIS), expressed concern about the outcome of talks with Iran on the nuclear issue, warned about the need for more attention to be paid to the situation in Libya and said that the Western powers needed to recognise that the countries of the Middle East understood the region better than outsiders.
Asked about U.A.E. efforts against Da'esh, he responded, "They are trying to hijack our religion, it's not about them not liking other religions, no, they don't like our religion; they don't like the way we practice our Islam." They would like to force their interpretation of Islam on our values, our countries, our families." The full text of the rest of the interview follows.
Bret Baier: Is there enough being done to fight ISIS? Sheikh Abdullah: We cannot get rid of ISIS if the situation in Syria is not dealt with in the appropriate fashion, and that's a tragedy, seeing over 200,000 Syrians slaughtered, and almost 10 million Syrians either refugees or displaced.
Bret Baier: You're taking a leadership role in the fight against terrorism.
You recently came out with a list of terrorist organisations. Two of them raised some eyebrows, as you can imagine, in Washington, the Council of American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim-American Society. Why did you do that?
Sheikh Abdullah: Our threshold is quite low when we talk about extremism. We cannot accept incitement or funding when we look at some of these organisations. For many countries, the definition of terror is that you have to carry a weapon and terrorise people. For us, it's far beyond that; we cannot tolerate even the smallest, tiniest amount of terrorism.
Bret Baier: So you have a zero tolerance on terrorism, on extremism, but do you think that the US is even as tough as you all are on some of these groups? Sheikh Abdullah: You should ask them.
Bret Baier: You worked alongside Egypt to launch strikes against extremist groups in Libya, and that took a lot of people by surprise in Washington.
Sheikh Abdullah: We believe especially (that) the countries who played a role in getting rid of Gaddafi, first of all, should have played a far bigger role the day after. They haven't. But, today they have a huge responsibility in getting Libya on the right side. I don't see a situation where Libya... forget being useful and helpful for the region,... but Libya could be a huge ticking bomb for the region.
Bret Baier: Do you think the US dropped the ball there?
Sheikh Abdullah: I don't want to mention one country or the other, but the entire coalition had a bigger responsibility , which it unfortunately didn't live up to.
Bret Baier: Let me talk to you about Iran, your neighbour just across the Gulf. Now, coming to a head on Monday (is) this nuclear deal. What are your thoughts, concerns about that deal?
Sheikh Abdullah: The question that we in the region will ask, more than what the deal contains or not, is what Iran's role is going to be the day after.
We wake up on Tuesday morning and everyone, and I mean most of us, will ask the question, 'what is Iran going to get out of it, not on the nuclear front but on the regional front?' We would wish obviously that such a deal would look very much like what we have in the U.A.E., where we have no nuclear enrichment, no reprocessing, but obviously that's far from what's going to happen.
Bret Baier: Have you seen how the US plays [actions] in this region, how it's perceived in this region, (has) changed, and if so, how?
Sheikh Abdullah: I think we have to move away from a period where Brussels, Washington, London and Paris think that they know the region better than the people of the region. And I think that is our biggest challenge.
Bret Baier: James Mattis, former CentCom (the US military Central Command) commander, said this about the U.A.E., "Their biggest concern isn't Iran, I's American disengagement" ... (Is that) fair?
Sheikh Abdullah: No, it's not fair, I don't think it's fair. We have challenges of extremism, radicalism, fascism. And we have social challenges, we have economic challenges, political challenges and I think these matters are not being discussed in a way (so that the region can rely enough on its historical partners. It just looks to me that the West are historical partners, either preoccupied with their internal matters or they're a bit too sore with their efforts in the region. I don't think that they've given up but I think they're in a "shield room" or a "glass room", in which they think that their interpretation of the region is the right one.
ret Baier ended the report by saying, "In the words of another former CentCom. commander, Anthony Zinni, the U.A.E. are "All in when it comes to fighting ISIS and terrorists." More military strike aircraft have launched from the airbase here at Al Dhafra than any other military facility in the region. But the real question is: how much influence the U.A.E. will have on other Arab nations about stopping the funding of terrorist organisations and speaking out against radical Islamic extremism?