Last July, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it would pull out its troops from Yemen partially, citing the differences with Saudi regarding its Yemen policy and the ban on arms purchase from western countries
A senior military officer explained that Abu Dhabi would prioritize peace over the military option. The UAE withdrawal plans came amid the escalating tension with Iran. The UAE and Saudi unite to crush Shiite Houthis or Ansarallah, deemed as a threat to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries. However, both have different interests in Yemen,as Albawba wrote.
UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) took control over the city of Aden, as Reuters reported on August 11. Abu Dhabi wants to have an independent south Yemen, while Saudi wants to restore Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s power.
Ironically, STC, which was expected to help Hadi to return to power after Houthi took control,played a role in ousting him.The fraction between Hadi and STC was linked with the former’s partnership with the Islah Party, a banned organization in the UAE.
Before the bloody unification in 1990, Yemen was divided in two parts: the communist-rule in the south, and the northern side was a religious, Sunni-ruled,backed by Saudi.
The war in Yemen broke out after Iran-linked Houthis expelled Western-backed leaderAbdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2014 after the ousting of the late Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, ending his 24 years of presidency, Saudi and its allies began military intervention in 2015,aimed at supporting the Hadi government.
As of November 2018, the armed conflict had killed 6,872 civilians and wounded 10,768,the majority by the Saudi-backed coalition airstrike,The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR) reported, as the Human Rights Watch quoted,
On August 15, tens of thousands held a rally demanding independence for the southern part, as Albawba reported.
“We call on the international community and the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to respect the southern people as a key partner in stemming the Persian tide in the region and fighting terrorism to achieve…regional and global stability,” a statement from rally said.
Is the UAE playing safe?
Foreign Policy on August 1 said that the UAE’ swithdrawal from Yemen was due to an assumption that the war launched in Yemen could not be won. An unidentified Emirati official said that the Gulf nation’s pullout showed that the UAE supported U.N-backed peace efforts.
The UAE will still maintain its intention to curb Iran’s influence in Yemen. However, Abu Dhabi also realizes the importance of dialogue as it held maritime talks with Iran, aimed at maintaining security and relations with neighboring countries in the MiddleEast.
Also, the UAE does not want to risk its ties with the U.S, given Congress’seffort to ban arms export to Saudi and the UAE triggered by the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Trump and his vetoes have blocked Congress from imposing an arms embargo and will unlikely change his policy toward the UAE and Saudi. However, Abu Dhabi feels it must do anything to boost the relationship before the current Congress ends its term in either 2020 or 2024.