Why Does The UAE Want To Wind Down Its Presence In Yemen?
Dubai, UAE, November 12th, 2015. PICTURED: UAE Air Force jet fighter Dassault Mirage 2000 at Dubai Airshow 2015. Many of the grotesque civilian casualty figures have come at the hands of the Saudi and Emirati air forces
July 8th, 2019. Emirati officials have announced that troop levels in the UAE will be wound down as the UAE moves from a “military first” to a “peace-first” strategy. This has come, Emirati officials said, after consultation with the Saudis, their partners in the coalition. One might assume this included a Saudi blessing since the UAE are already beginning to reduce troop presence, but it’s not entirely clear.
Withdrawals began in the Red Sea port city on the west coast called Hodeidah and a military base 130 km south of that called Khokha. This was reported yesterday by Al Jazeera who quoted an anonymous Yemeni military official.
Jason Ditz writing for Antiwar.com has suggested that rather than representing a “peace-first” stance as the Emirates has announced it wants, the plans could be better described as “war by other means,” as Ditz reminds us that the UAE has been amassing large groups of militias which could be used as proxies the wrest control of large sections of the country while their ally, Saudi Arabia, busies itself with the continued persecution of the Houthis which the Saudi's believe are merely the proxies of Iran.
Regional tensions between Iran and the United States have dragged the two nations and the region itself dangerously close to war, with President Trump announcing he had called off military strikes against Iran 10 minutes before they were set to be carried out. With the UAE fully aware that Iran despises their existence, and that a war between Iran and the U.S. would almost certainly mean wide-scale devastation across the small gulf country, the withdrawing of troops could certainly be perceived as an act of fortification.
"This is not really a last-minute decision. This is part of the process within the coalition that's been discussed extensively with our partners, the Saudis,” an anonymous UAE military source told Al Jazeera.
For years the Yemen war has been extremely one-sided, with deaths reaching over 200,000 for the Houthis and the people of Yemen, and the UAE losing only a little over 100 killed, along with three airplanes. However now, the Houthis are beginning to carry out attacks on Saudi Arabian soil using drones and allegedly even a cruise missile; killing at least one person, injuring 56, and damaging airports and oil pipelines in the country.
Saudi officials have accused Iran of arming the Houthis, who are also a Shiite faction, but Tehran has denied the claims. Now that the Houthis are beginning to fight back in a larger way, perhaps the UAE see that the time has come to let their Saudi allies take any falls while they use their militias to consolidate power in the south.
Seizing on a possible thread of peace, Houthi leaders have urged their opponents to withdraw all troops from Yemen and allow the conflict to end.
"We call on the aggressors to withdraw from Yemen, as the Republic of Yemen rejects aggression, siege and air embargo," Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, tweeted on Monday.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iranian-backed Houthi Shiite rebels, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Hadi's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
War-battered Yemen has been hit with more than 460,000 suspected cholera cases so far this year — a sharp rise from the 380,000 cases for all of 2018, the United Nations said Monday.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the increased number of cases has led to 705 apparent cholera deaths since January, dramatically higher than the 75 deaths in the same period last year.