*'Otaiba changes colours faster than a chameleon'
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) frequently accused its neighbour Qatar of abetting militants, citing as one prime example the 2013 opening of a Taliban office in Doha. However, Emiratis also tried to get the Taliban to open an embassy in their own country, according to the New York Times.
"Three former American officials, however, confirmed this week that the UAE had initially sought the Taliban embassy," the newspaper added.
The report added that, "American officials have regularly said that Qatar agreed to host the Taliban office as part of a broader American-led effort to facilitate peace talks in Afghanistan, not because of any support for the Taliban or their ideology." (The opening of a Qatar office of the Palestinian militant group Hamas was also arranged with American approval.)
Over the weekend, the Times obtained a leaked email dated September 12, 2011, for the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, who according to the email, even received "an angry phone call" from the UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed at the time complaining that the Taliban had ended up in Qatar and not the UAE.
Yousef al-Otaiba said: "They want to be in the middle of everything those guys," referring to the Qataris.
Diplomat, Mohamed Mahmoud al-Khaja, wrote to Jeffrey Feltman, then Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, using the shorthand "HH," presumably to refer to his boss, the foreign minister, His Highness Abdullah bin Zayed. "HH says that we were under the impression that Abu Dhabi was your first choice and this is what we were informed" by the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, al-Khaja said.
In a separate email dated January 28, 2012, Ambassador al-Otaiba himself wrote to another American official about similar complaints from Mr. bin Zayed, using a different shorthand, “ABZ.”
In an interview last week, al-Otaiba criticised Qatar's alliance with Islamic politicians and the presence of the office of the Taliban in Doha.
Analysts have called al-Otaiba's stance as opportunism of the worst kind. "Otaiba changes colours faster than a chameleon and he was calling the grapes sour after he failed to get it, as we read in the famed tale," a Doha-based observer said.
Representatives of the Emirati Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. A State Department spokesman also declined to comment.
Three former American officials, however, confirmed this week that the UAE had initially sought the Taliban embassy.
In June, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut off trade and diplomatic relations with Qatar accusing Doha of supporting militants and maintaining relations with Iran.
Once the decision was made to locate the embassy in Doha, however, Ambassador Otaiba repeatedly cited its presence in his list of grievances against Qatar — the first of which is its public alliance with the Islamist politicians of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region.