The UAE is defending Gulf region by defending Yemen
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced the tragic deaths of 45 of its soldiers and officers in Yemen’s Marib province, alongside ten Saudi and five Bahraini soldiers killed in the same attack.
The central province, which is a strategically important energy hub, does not share a border with Saudi territory and represents a vital artery to Sana’a, providing most of the electricity to the Yemeni capital. This is thanks to the Marib dam, which was rebuilt by late UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan. The dam was inaugurated in 1986 at a time when Yemen was in desperate need of assistance to assure its very survival as a state.
Sheikh Zayed’s goal was to provide water and electricity to the people of Yemen, nothing more and nothing less. He took this stance based on his view that Yemen was an important and intrinsic part of the Arab world. Ultimately, nobody can deny that many Arabs trace their origins to Yemen, while the collapse of the historic Marib dam represented the beginning of the dispersion of the Arab tribes across the region, including to the shores of the Gulf region. The Marib dam collapsed in 580 and was a major factor in the fragmentation of the Arab tribes. Sheikh Zayed, who possessed unificationist thinking, demonstrated his vision when he made the decision to restore the dam close to the site of the original. This confirmed Sheikh Zayed’s commitment to the principles of pan-Arabism and what that represents, from a cultural angle first of all and the idea of preserving and protecting Arab history.
That the death of so many Emirati soldiers and officers came in Marib province is evidence that the UAE remains faithful to the historic mission as set out by Sheikh Zayed. The sole objective of the Arab intervention, which began in March 2015 as part of the Saudi-led coalition, is to rescue Yemen and return it to the Yemeni people, preventing it from becoming a de facto Iranian colony. There has always been an Emirati awareness of the high price that would be paid by the entire region on losing Yemen. Sheikh Zayed’s efforts were an early expression of this.
The latest losses suffered by the UAE will not deter it from dedicating itself to its mission that has resulted in the liberation of Aden and will see other important victories. The UAE’s sole concern is to help Yemen and its people, ensuring that the country does not fall under the sway of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have also allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE’s armed forces, was very clear when he said that the UAE is committed to “purge” Yemen of the Houthis, who are only interested in wreaking havoc. He confirmed the Emirati people’s commitment to lifting the oppression of their Yemeni “brothers”.
This is a reaffirmation of faith by the Emirati leadership of the mission to restore and rescue Yemen and its people. The UAE has no other choice but to continue with this mission which, above anything else, is also a defence of its own national security and people.
Sheikh Zayed demonstrated an early understanding of the importance that Yemen represents to the Arab Gulf and regional security. So there is a form of consistency in the UAE’s policy towards Yemen today.
Ultimately, the UAE is defending itself by defending Yemen. The heroes who were martyred in Marib were on the front lines of a fight in defence of their country and region. They were carrying out their national duty in defence of their homeland and people and indeed in the service of the entire Arab Gulf region.