The UAE wields a double-edged sword in Yemen

The UAE wields a double-edged sword in Yemen
The UAE's thirst for hegemony over Yemen, particularly in the south, is becoming an obstacle to peace in the war-torn country.
4 min read
06 November, 2018
Yemenis protest against Saudi and UAE intervention [Getty]
The UAE's presence and influence in southern Yemen has grown rapidly over the last two years, and late last month, the Emirati Minister of State for International Co-operation, Reem Al Hashimi, arrived in Yemen's Aden to have a first-hand assessment of her country's activities in the city. 

Al Hashimi met with senior Yemeni government officials, including the recently appointed prime minister. They discussed a myriad of issues related to Aden and the entire country. The minister also visited the Emirati military forces stationed in Aden and inspected a number of projects and health centres funded by UAE in Aden.

Hashimi stated that the Arab Coalition will stand by Yemen until the country overcomes its current phase - one which has derailed the development and political stability of the country and sparked deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

While Emirati state media and pro-UAE media outlets attempt to depict a healthy relation between the legitimate government of Yemen and the UAE, the fact lays bare that the Gulf state remains hostile towards the internationally recognised government and their rifts have been hard to bridge.

Yemeni and Emirati officials exchange smiles and hugs, yet their innermost feelings and thoughts are not friendly towards one another. This lack of true consensus between the two sides has largely complicated the situation in Yemen and impacted the entire course of war. 

Read also: Saudi Arabia dreams of global influence, but the UAE is just as power-hungry

Continuous support for secession

The internationally recognised government has been facing formidable challenges since the Houthi coup in September of 2014. In addition to the Houthi's tight control of the north, another major challenge are the activities of the separatists in Yemen's south and the momentum has risen more than ever before thanks to Emirati support. 

The UAE is sponsoring the military training of southern groups outside the control of the legitimate government. More importantly, these militant groups could be used to confront the government and undermine its authority.

Read also: The Southern Movement has 'little tolerance' for UAE's ambitions in Yemen

In August this year, hundreds of soldiers celebrated their graduation in Aden in the presence of Emirati military commanders. The graduating soldiers are due to be part of the UAE-backed Security Belt forces. The purpose of such a force is to maintain a powerful UAE presence and its local loyal militia in the strategic city of Aden and other southern territories. Similarly, a number of police and security personnel graduated in August after ten months of UAE-sponsored training in Hadramout.

Although, there are many southerners who appreciate the Emirati role in fighting the Houthis and providing humanitarian aid to the needy, many believe that this should not replace or marginalise the role of the legitimate government of Yemen.

The continuous UAE support for secessionists is a stark betrayal to Yemen's unity and a contributing factor to the prolonged war and horrendous humanitarian catastrophes.

The Emirati thirst for hegemony over Yemen, particularly in the south, is becoming an obstacle to peace in the war-torn country.

Last month, reports indicated that the UAE had hired a group of foreign mercenaries to target local religious figures, particularly those affiliated to the al-Islah Party, the face of Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. The mercenary assassins were tasked to "disrupt and destruct" the party, which is a significant ally of the Yemeni government in the south. Such a heinous crime revealed the extent of the vile agenda the Emiratis have in Yemen.

Read also: UAE hired Israeli mercenary to lead US death squad on Yemen assassination spree

The al-Islah Party is not only supportive of the legitimate government, it is also a zealous supporter of Yemen's unity. This contradicts the Emirati ambitions and plots, highlighting that it wants to see Aden as an al-Islah free city. 

Impeding the government 

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Since May last year, the southern separatists have escalated their chaotic activities including mass marches, protests and military confrontations with the pro-government forces.

They accused former prime minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Dhagher of corruption and called for his removal. Last month, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi dismissed bin Dagher and appointed Maeen Abdulmalik. 

The new prime minister arrived in Aden two weeks after his appointment and was received warmly by government officials at the airport.

Commenting on the appointment of the new prime minister, Aidrous Al-Zubaidi, the head of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council, said this prime minister "will do nothing," but still expressed his explicit defiance to the prime minister. He seemed to draw confidence in his words from solid Emirati support and the southern separatists decided not to take to the street calling for his dismissal. 

But the government cannot build or stabilise the city at a time when destroyers are abundant in Aden. At a time when multitudes of Yemenis aspire to end the Houthi control of Sanaa and in other northern areas, they also want to see an end to the Emirati hegemony in Aden and other southern provinces. 

The UAE wields a double-edged sword in Yemen, as it funds some humanitarian projects and fights the Houthis, but its dominance-seeking policies contribute to prolonging the war and aggravating the humanitarian conditions in Yemen. 

The writer is a Yemeni journalist, reporting from Yemen, whose identity we are protecting for their security.