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The UAE’s Role in Yemen

Yemen was probably never destined to be the ‘Republic of Yemen.’ It couldn’t last long enough. The stains of corruption, conflict and bloodshed returned in the name of a civil war that has been raging since 2015.

This once oil rich country is now considered to be the poorest Arab nation and is in urgent need of humanitarian aid. The biggest misfortune for Yemenis falls from the sky from fighter aircrafts and weapons manufactured by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and BAE systems which were sold to the Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The war has blocked food imports into Yemen affecting 17 million people.

Getting Back to Square One

For years Dubai-based DP World has been providing Saudi Arabian ports with marine and trade solutions, maintenance, logistics and more. While tension erupted between the UAE and Saudi Arabia regarding their coalition in Yemen, DP World garnered a majority of its wealth from Yemen’s Aden port in 2008. The importance of South Yemen is due to the Bab El Mandab Strait which is a junction for 3.8 million barrels trading via the Red Sea which is critical for the UAE as well.

However, capturing the Port of Aden city was not enough to satisfy the UAEs hunger to be a world superpower in the energy sector, Djibouti and Eritrea were approached to lease their ports too. Nevertheless, Eritrea already shares a part of its land with the UAE where its military base exists and Djibouti promptly denied leasing its port.

Despite having a military base, the UAE came up with the proposal to have ports in Eritrea and neighboring Djibouti. It was clear that the agenda for the UAE was to gain an advantage over Yemen and weaken it.

Having ports around one of the busiest sea trading routes would mean expanding business all over the region.

The UAE played it smart while Saudi stuck to its agenda of driving out Houthis and became the target of the backlash from human rights organizations namely Amnesty UK and Human Rights Watch. It is certain that the UAE was actually driving the coalition.

There is a possibility that Saudi Crown Prince MBS and the Saudi government are working under the directions of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince MBZ, considering MBZ’s relatively wide exposure in both, regional and international politics. A collective effort towards carrying on the war in Yemen was observed in January this year, as satellites captured the presence of UAE’s military grade drones (U.S.-made General Atomics Predator XP) in Jizan base.

Yemen’s Alshahed news carried coverage of UAE secretary-general Mohammed Atiq al-Falahi of UAE Red Crescent, threatening on a satellite channel to make the Houthis legitimate in Yemen if the port of Aden is withdrawn from the UAE.

Yemen’s territory includes more than 200 islands; the largest of these is Socotra. Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean is in the news because the UAE’s functions as the de-facto ruler of this UNESCO protected island which is also one of busiest ports in the world. Socotra is also home to rare species of flora and fauna.

As for recent developments regarding stopping the war on Yemen, US Senators Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee and Chris Murphy debated the US role in Yemen. However, the UK said no to a pause in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the 26th February UN Security Council meeting.

Yemen is the country with the most people in the world (21.2 million) in need of humanitarian aid. While the UAE’s aim is to gain a port in South Yemen, it seems fighting Houthis is just an excuse.