In recent months I’ve realized that there’s a gaping hole in my “Yemen’s Disaster” series. The series does a good job laying out the many different divisions within Yemen, and between the sponsors of differing sides in Yemen’s civil war. But it leaves out the very important role of divisions within the “Saudi Coalition” that has been destroying the country. The United Arab Emirates, supposedly allied with Saudi Arabia, has been pursuing a very different strategy, which is laid out in this video.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. The missiles that keep raining down on Saudi Arabia make it clear that that country’s three year adventure in Yemen has been a complete failure. But the Saudis have an ally that’s also trying to take Yemeni territory, and they are not failing. Today we are going to talk about what the United Arab Emirates is doing to Yemen.
Those who oppose the war on Yemen talk a lot about Humanitarian issues, as we should. But in our last Yemen video we covered something we should pay more attention to, and that’s the way that the Saudi coalition’s failed war on Yemen flagrantly breaks one of international law’s most important traditions. It’s basically a war of conquest. Saudi Arabia’s war of conquest is failing. The UAE’s is not.
You can find all kinds of interesting reporting that suggests that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is being manipulated by the UAE’s crown Prince, Muhammad Bin Zayed. I don’t know how much of that I believe, but if you look at the current map of the war in Yemen it looks a lot more likely. The Saudis are spending billions of dollars a month to get missiles dropped on their cities, while the UAE is running off with some of the most strategic territory in the world.
The Saudis are focused on crushing the Houthis, who control most of the parts of Yemen that aren’t desert. This conflict is a savage meat grinder, but the front lines haven’t moved in a significant way in years. What’s much more interesting is what’s happening to the parts of Yemen the Houthis don’t control. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are supposedly allies in this conflict, but it doesn’t really look like that on the ground.
Saudi Arabia and the United States like to pretend that President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is in control of the parts of Yemen that aren’t controlled by the Houthis. This was never true. He has spent the majority of the conflict in Saudi Arabia, and in January 2018 his forces lost control of Aden, the supposed capital that the Saudi coalition had captured for him in 2015.
But this president of nothing wasn’t kicked out of Aden by the Houthis, he was defeated by militias sponsored by the United Arab Emirates. All the most useful bits of Yemen are beginning to look similar. Each non Houthi province is run by a different, highly complex mix of groups, some of which are sponsored by Saudi Arabia and some by the UAE. In some provinces the different groups work well together, and in some provinces they fight each other.
Saudi supported forces tend to dominate in the provinces where the fighting against the Houthis is fiercest. The UAE is playing a longer game. Aden, which their forces now mostly control, used to be one of the most important ports in the world. When the UAE fights, it focuses on the coasts and Islands that sit on one of the world’s most important trading routes.
For decades now the UAE has been trying to set itself up as the crossroads of the world, with ports airlines and commercial hubs like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some claim that they are interested in crushing Yemeni shipping competition. The UAE may or may not be able to use this war to permanently take Yemeni territory, but they are definitely trying to do so. Recently Saudi Arabia has been pushing back against this a bit, landing troops on Socotra, an island that the UAE took from Yemeni forces a couple months back. But that’s not the only Yemeni island the UAE controls, and they are also getting more powerful on the coasts.
While Saudi Arabia and the US get more and more caught up in their unwinnable war against the Houthis, the UAE is quietly building an Empire on one of the world’s most important sea routes. That’s not something that should be happening in 2018.