The other side of the Emirati intervention in Yemen
When Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition launched operation Decisive Storm in Yemen in 2015, the goal was to prevent the strategically important country from becoming a bigger thorn in their sides.
There is, however, another side of the war in Yemen. The United Arab Emirates continues its humanitarian mission, which it started in 1982 in aiding flood victims in the Marib area in Yemen. The highlight of that mission was a private donation in 1984 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nayhan to rebuild Marib dam. Two years later, Sheikh Zayed inaugurated the dam and its 30 sq.km retention lake. The dam made it possible to irrigate 16,000 hectares of arable land.
Today, the Emirati mission in Yemen continues to follow the foundations laid by Sheikh Zayed. The UAE has lost soldiers for the sake of Yemen and Marib. In 2015, UAE forces succeeded in returning Marib to Yemen’s legitimate government and in flying both the Yemeni and the Emirati flags on Marib Dam as promised by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is the deputy supreme commander of the UAE’s armed forces. The UAE continues to return hope to Yemeni citizens.
Operation Decisive Storm was an unprecedented step to stop Iranian expansionism, which had reached Yemen. There was no war on Yemen; there was a war for Yemen. The purpose of the war was to prevent Yemen from becoming a land hostile to the Gulf states and a foothold for Iran in the Arabian peninsula.
Iran’s expansionist plan in the Arabian peninsula was very clear. Yemen was a mere stepping stone. Operation Decisive Storm was and still is a defensive operation made necessary by certain events and the intentions behind them. It started when the Houthis took over Sana’a in September 2014.
The Houthis did not stop at Sana’a. They struck an alliance with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He had warned interim president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the dire consequences of allowing the Houthis to take control of Amran province and annihilating Brigade 310 commanded by Hamid al-Kosheibi.
Brigade 310 was guarding Sana’a’s northern gate and Saleh knew too well the disastrous consequences of letting the Houthis take the province. However, the inevitable happened and the Houthis reached the capital after eliminating Brigade 310 and its commander.
They continued their march towards Taiz, fiefdom of their ally Saleh. They took Taiz, then Aden. They were determined to take the strategic port of Mocha, which controls the Bab el Mandeb strait and ultimately the entrance to the Suez Canal.
It was out of the question to allow the Houthis to take over Yemen. Soon, operation Decisive Storm liberated Marib, Aden and Al Mokalla and at the same time battled al-Qaeda forces in Abyan and Shabwa. There was no war on Yemen; there was a war to liberate the southern provinces.
At the same time, there was a war on poverty, disease and underdevelopment. A war on poverty means a war on terrorism in its various forms. This war was started by Sheikh Zayed with the rebuilding of Marib Dam.
Along with chasing the Houthis from the southern provinces and the coastal towns, the UAE continued to invest in helping Yemenis recover from their crises, regardless of the narrow political interests of the Houthis and their ally Saleh and the obvious blunders of Hadi.
The UAE built schools and initiated educational reforms in the liberated areas. It provided funds to international organisations helping Yemenis rebuild. It helped the United Nations in Yemen. All UN agencies and organisations working in Yemen received funds from the UAE. Thus, 154 schools in the governorates of Aden and Lahaj were reconstructed or repaired while 230 schools were repaired in other provinces.
Emirati aid to Yemen also covered health and security. Wherever there was a humanitarian need, the UAE did not hesitate to answer it. In Yemen, where a child dies every ten minutes, the UAE is determined to help the people reach a stage of self-reliance free from foreign interference.