hen Erik Prince arrived at the Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles in January 2017 for his now-famous meetings with a Russian banker and UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed, he was in the middle of an unexpected comeback. The election of Donald Trump had given the disgraced Blackwater founder a new opportunity to prove himself. After years of trying and failing to peddle a sweeping vision of mercenary warfare around the world, Erik Prince was back in the game.
Bin Zayed had convened a group of close family members and advisers at the luxurious Indian Ocean resort for a grand strategy session in anticipation of the new American administration. On the agenda were discussions of new approaches for dealing with the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, the threat of the Islamic State, and the United Arab Emirates' longstanding rivalry with Iran. Under bin Zayed's leadership, the UAE had used its oil wealth to become one of the world's largest arms purchasers and the third largest importer of U.S. weapons. A new American president meant new opportunities for the tiny Gulf nation to exert its outsized military and economic influence in the Gulf region and beyond.