Los ataques hutíes contra Abu Dabi ponen a prueba la creciente proyección diplomática de EAU

Houthi attacks on Abu Dhabi put the UAE's growing diplomatic projection on the line test


04 | 03 | 2022


The UAE is in the midst of a strategy to regain a smooth relationship with key players in the Middle East.

In the picture

profile urban planning in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates [Pixabay].

The capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi, was the target of drone attacks by Houthi militias on 18 and 24 January. Similar attacks by group fighting in the Yemen war have already taken place in Saudi Arabia, which is directly involved in that conflict, in an indirect confrontation with Iran, which supports the Houthis. The action against the UAE, which has no border with Yemen, speaks to the wider scope of possible Houthi punitive operations and Abu Dhabi's difficulty in disengaging from a conflict that undermines its ambition for greater influence in the region and may jeopardise its internal stability.

The lethal drone strikes carried out over Abu Dhabi in January 2022 pose a risk to the stability of the Middle East and may undermine attempts by several countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to put an end to long-standing rifts.

The attacks, claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, killed three people as a result of multiple explosions from drone strikes on fuel trucks near Abu Dhabi's international airport. They were an attempt to punish the US for its involvement in the Yemeni civil war, from which it has not been able to fully extricate itself.

The Houthi rebels are a movement adhering to the branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism, which was born as civil service examination to the religious influence of Saudi Arabia in their home country. According to a 2019 Chatham House report 2019 Chatham House report, the group is made up of between 180,000 and 200,000 armed men. In 2000 they transformed themselves into a militia and fought between 2004 and 2010 against former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was eventually toppled in the Arab Spring of 2011. However, in 2015, they took control of the capital, Sana'a, after allying themselves with the president, whom they assassinated in 2017 upon learning of his approach to the Saudi coalition to end the terrorist presence in the territory. Despite gaining extensive control over the country, they claim to have no political or governmental intentions in Yemen. Their motto is "God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews and victory for Islam".

The Houthis are indirectly supported by Iran. Degree Since 2014, Tehran has been supplying them with financial resources and weapons and contributing to their military training and economic resources, although it is unclear how involved the Iranian regime is in the militia's decision-making. On the other hand, there is Saudi Arabia, which receives support from nine African and Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE, and above all the US, to counter the terrorist presence in the Persian Gulf, something that escalates tensions as the Houthis have 'anti-imperialism' as one of their main fighting arguments.

In 2019, the UAE withdrew most of its troops from Yemen after concluding that the war, which was not breaking the rebels and had a high humanitarian cost - thousands of Yemenis killed, malnutrition and the spread of widespread disease - was unwinnable. Recently, however, the UAE has again sent a force to support Yemeni groups fighting the Houthis in the most troubled and oil-rich provinces (Shabwa and Marib).

"The intervention of the UAE-backed forces was a game changer. It infuriated the Houthis," said Maged al-Madhaji, director executive of the Centre for Strategic programs of study in Sana'a. "The Houthi rebels have now made good on their vow to retaliate by attacking one of Arabia's biggest allies. So now the Houthi rebels have made good on their promise of retaliation and attacked one of Saudi Arabia's biggest allies.

Consequences of Houthi action

In addition to being the first deadly attack the UAE has suffered in many years, the Houthis were able to demonstrate how far-reaching their actions can be territorially. group The rebel subject had only ever made such movements over short distances, mainly against its neighbour, Saudi Arabia. An immediate consequence was an increase in the price of oil, of which the UAE is a major producer, triggering a chain reaction of world leaders condemning the attacks.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE's foreign minister, asked Washington to reclassify the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation because, although they were classified as such during the last days of the Trump administration, the recognition was revoked by President Joe Biden at the beginning of his term.

The biggest impact is being made on the UAE's diplomatic diary and its strategy of pacifying the region, of which it is perhaps the most stable state. It has managed to avoid the political turmoil seen in some of its neighbours and this has attracted thousands of expatriates and multi-million dollar foreign investments. Many observers argue that this stability has been achieved through the imposition of nationalist and authoritarian measures that limit some rights, such as freedom of expression; the country's authorities respond that such policies allow the country to preserve its stability in a region as troubled as the Middle East. This image of solidity, however, has been undermined by the recent attacks.

For years, the UAE's powerful and offensive foreign policy, with interventions in places like Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Horn of Africa, jeopardised the very stability the country claimed to want to maintain. But when its oil resources found themselves in the crosshairs of Iranian retaliation, Abu Dhabi quickly changed its regional diplomatic strategy.

Since then, he has worked to overcome the disagreements of the past. It has made several overtures to Iran, including sending new high-level delegations by the end of 2021. It has also decided to strengthen ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with whom it had severed relations after the UAE had supported armed groups that attempted to overthrow him in Syria's civil war. It has also intensified economic bilateralism with Oman, which has become an important market for Emirati trade.

The UAE has repeatedly stated that it wants to be a force that contributes decisively to a de-escalation of the region for promote peace, economic stability and foreign investment growth. However, the attacks show that Abu Dhabi's mission statement is not easy and that turning the page on a dark, tense and blood-soaked decade will not be immediate.