Between a major regional confrontation on the horizon taking place in Syria between Israel, Syria, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the United States and a potential nuclear standoff with North Korea and China, it is no surprise that there are many newsworthy stories that continue to go unnoticed.
One such story is what is currently taking place in Yemen, and this time around, it involves a country other than Saudi Arabia, the United States, or the United Kingdom.
In early 2015, Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi fled his palace in Aden after a takeover saw him unseated in a relatively bloodless manner (bloodless, that is, compared what followed after Saudi Arabia’s brutal intervention). Hadi was still recognized internationally as president even though he technically had already been overthrown. (By way of comparison, the United States insists that President Bashar al-Assad in Syria is not the country’s legitimate ruler, even as he continues to retain his office after around seven years of fighting).
Saudi Arabia, in particular, was adamant that Hadi maintained the country’s legitimate leader. Why? Because Hadi was the one who requested U.N. intervention and Saudi assistance to battle the Houthi-led insurgency. Without Hadi, their basis to bomb Yemen without a U.N. mandate becomes even more dubious than it already has been.
However, Saudi Arabia is not the only major player in Yemen. While the corporate media — in tandem with the warmongering government officials who apparently have nothing better to do than to fabricate nonsense – continue to blame Iran for the deteriorating situation in Yemen, the truth remains that there is one other U.S. ally heavily involved in destabilizing one of the poorest nations in the Arab world.
At the end of January of this year, the Telegraph reported that Yemen’s current government was preparing to flee Yemen entirely while a separatist group backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seized control in Aden and surrounded the presidential palace. Yemen’s other major city, Sana’a, is more or less under the control of the Houthi rebels. Rather than wasting valuable time and resources trying to take over Yemen’s former capital in the face of a determined Houthi outfit, the UAE instead has plans of its own to completely form their own country in the south of Yemen.
Last year, southern insurgents backed by the UAE formed the Southern Transitional Council with the aim of reforming South Yemen, a country that existed until it united with the north in 1990. According to Middle East Eye, these southern separatists have no interest at all in conquering Sana’a, anyway.
According to the Telegraph, Yemen’s prime minister, Ahmed bin Dagher, pleaded with Saudi Arabia to intervene on the government’s behalf. But no such intervention came, and Saudi Arabia has essentially enabled the separatists’ take over.
When Yemen’s former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Houthi forces near the end of last year, Anti-Media predicted this to be a major pivotal moment for the war in Yemen. According to Middle East Eye, it was this event that became the turning point in the UAE-Saudi relationship in Yemen. UAE has no interest in fighting a losing battle and has aligned itself with the party it views as being able to get the job done and serve their interests in Yemen, “riding the wave,” as Middle East Eye described it.
As long as Hadi can retain his post as exiled president and legitimize Saudi Arabia’s presence in the country, Saudi Arabia is not expected to do much by way of confronting UAE’s regional ambitions. This is even while the UAE would not allow Hadi to enter Aden in August of last year. Hadi himself views the entire situation as a “coup” and has called the separatists “occupiers,” not liberators.
Right now, as well as having large-scale ground troops in the country, training tens of thousands of Yemeni troops and importing hundreds of highly skilled mercenaries from South America, the UAE is also operating a network of torture prisons in Southern Yemen. Thousands of terror suspects have allegedly disappeared in these prisons.
As poor and impoverished as Yemen is, its geostrategic importance should not be overlooked. Yemen is situated in an important transit route, and by controlling strategically important trade routes, the UAE can continue to develop and expand its fossil-fuel trade to Europe and North America and become a global energy superpower.
According to leaked emails revealed to Middle East Eye last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman actually wants out of the war in Yemen, and these latest developments only continue to cast further doubt on Saudi Arabia’s strategy in its almost three-year-long war. Saudi Arabia has shown that together with the U.S., the U.K., and other regional players, it can devastate Yemen’s infrastructure and civilian population, but it has absolutely nothing to show by way of military victory.
This has all taken place with very little media coverage. We have witnessed Donald Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, berate Iran over its alleged and unproven activities in Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia has received some negative media coverage for its criminal role in this war. Yet the UAE’s continued occupation of Yemen largely goes unnoticed.
The UAE is the world’s fourth-largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, India, and China. The UAE also infamously assisted in the aerial onslaught of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011 and continued to wage a proxy war in the country even after Gaddafi was overthrown.
No one is talking about it, but the UAE has its sights on becoming a major player in the region not just economically, but also militarily.
One reason why the UAE’s ever-expanding role in the Middle East continues to go under-reported may be the vast amount of influence the current UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, wields. He is reportedly “one of the most powerful and well-connected men in Washington,” as detailed by the Intercept. Unsurprisingly, Otaiba is also allegedly the leading voice in Washington for the war in Yemen.