The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it had reduced the number of troops in war-torn Yemen, shifting its’ military first” strategy to a ‘peace first’ plan.

An Emirati official who remains anonymous told BBC that his side had coordinated the redeployment strategy with the members of Saudi-led coalition which has fought to crush Iran-backed Houthi rebels for five years. We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in [the Red Sea city] of Hodeidah and reasons that are tactical. It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy,” the official said as Al Jazeera reported.

A Yemeni official told AFP that Emirati troops had totally left the military base in Khoka,130 kilometers south of port city Hodeida, which is the entry point for humanitarian aid.

The Gulf state has pulled half its heavy artillery from Khoka, despite maintaining its presence in Yemen’s west coast. Emirati troops have also vacated military post in Sarwah, west of Marib Province and withdrew its Patriot missile system from that region, the unnamed official added.

The UAE announcement came amid the escalating conflict between the U.S and Iran, which peaked last month when Tehran shot down Washington’s drones following U.S accusation that Iran had launched a number of attacks on oil tankers.

One of the Emirati officials confirmed that the troops withdrawal had nothing to do with the current standoff between Washington and Tehran, but the Abu Dhabi administration would still take the tension seriously. 

 “Many people asked if this is also linked to the current rise of tensions with Iran. I would say fundamentally no … But of course, we cannot be blind to the overall strategic picture,” the official said.

The withdrawal reflects a divided policy toward Yemen

The UAE withdrawal from Yemen does not automatically end the Gulf state’s involvement in one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. Hussain Albukhaiti,a Yemen-based activist told TRT that the UAE has yet to remove its troops from Yemen.

 “No, the UAE has not pulled out any soldiers from Yemen. They are actually replacing them along with damaged armoured vehicles with new deployments,” Albukhaiti said.

Political expert  Gamal Gasim argued that the UAE announcement shows a contradictive policy with Saudi, as Dubai intends to divide Yemen into south and north,but Riyadh aims to fight against Houthi militants.

“The UAE more likely intends to split Yemen into two countries of South and North where it will have influence and dominance over the southern part. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is more interested in defeating the Houthis and ending Iranian influence,” Gasim, a political science professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan told Aljazeera.

Also, international human rights have been pressuring the UAE which rely on Western-made weapons in the war. The Yemen war, which broke out in 2014 when Houthi rebels tried to control the capital Sana’a and expelled the West-backed leader Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has involved Western-made weaponry that killed innocent civilians.

A  report from Mwatana for Human Rights (MHR), a Yemen-based rights group, revealed that 27 unlawful attacks documented from April 2015 to April 2018 involved weapons produced in the U.S and the U.K.

The non-profit organisation Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), confirmed on December 15,2018 that the number of civilians killed in Yemen reached 60,000,six times higher than the official report released by the United Nations (U.N).

Hopes rely on the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement

On June 26, the U.N Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths met Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Both discussed steps to be taken the speed up the peace process highlighted in the Stockholm Agreement signed in late 2018.

“I had very productive meetings with Vice-President Ali Mohsen. I was encouraged by the openness and flexibility of the Government of Yemen and its continued commitment towards achieving peace. I am determined to advance the peace process, based on the National Dialogue Outcome, the GCC initiative, and related security council resolutions and restart soonest possible consultations with the parties”, Griffiths said as Reliefweb quoted.

The signing of the agreement involved Yemen’s government and rebels’ sides with the U.N as a mediator. The pact called for a truce and prisoners’ exchange and the release of hostages in Hodeida and Sana’a.

ACLED claimed the agreement also paves the way for a political negotiation to form a transitional government. As the humanitarian crisis in Yemen continues, the U.N calls for all stakeholders to create a conducive environment to create peace.

Last but not least, Western countries must stop supplying arms as the peace agreement will mean nothing if they still arm the warring factions to kill innocent civilians.

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