The UAE’s ruling regime has for the first time admitted to reaching understandings with the Houthis, which the Saudi-Emirati coalition is supposed to intervene militarily in Yemen to combat.
In an unprecedented position, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the Houthis had a role in Yemen’s future, reflecting the UAE’s abandonment of the coalition’s main goal in the fight against the Iranian-backed group for years.
Gargash claimed that the recent Riyadh agreement between the Yemeni legitimate government and the Abu Dhabi-backed separatist transitional council “should take into account the legitimate aspirations of all segments of Yemeni society, including the Houthis.”
“The Houthi militias have wreaked havoc in the country, but they are part of Yemeni society and will have a role in their future.”
The Houthis have been fighting the internationally recognized government and its allies for more than five years in a dispute that pushed the country to the brink of starvation as it deepened in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stepped in at the head of a military alliance to stem the insurgency.
For months, the UAE’s foreign policy has undergone noticeable changes in the recent period, most notably reaching security understandings with Iran after a military delegation from Abu Dhabi visited Tehran for the first time in six years.
The announced understandings quickly cast a shadow over Yemen’s political and military balances, and Saudi Arabia made it an easy target for the Houthis, as rifts within the coalition led by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in Yemen continued.
While the UAE is messing with Yemen, the Houthis come to save them and divert attention from what is happening in the south of the country, through the preoccupation of Riyadh with drones, targeting airports, military bases and oil installations, which many see as mutual services between the Houthis and Abu Dhabi.
The recent understandings between Abu Dhabi and Tehran seem to have succeeded in new balances on Yemeni territory, by sharing the country between them, empowering the Houthis from the northern cities, and controlling the UAE through forces loyal to them in the southern provinces, and leaving Riyadh fighting the Houthis on its borders and protecting its territory from constant bombing.
While Yemenis are still outraged against the UAE over its movements in the south of the country, the Yemeni government rejected Saudi Arabia’s attempt to force it to negotiate with the Southern Transitional Council, which turned against legitimacy last August, with the support of Abu Dhabi. Riyadh, on September 14, 2019, was surprised by a Houthi attack on two Aramco facilities.
Analysts confirm that the UAE is indirectly behind the attacks on sensitive facilities in the Kingdom, especially the security of these attacks have doubled on Saudi Arabia since the signing of the security agreements between the UAE and Tehran, amid questions “why the Houthis do not target the UAE?”
The answer is clear: the UAE on the ground provides the Houthis with significant services through its fight against legitimacy and the transfer of battles to liberated areas.
In August, a Saudi diplomat published a dangerous document revealing the involvement of the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s staunchest ally, in supporting Houthi militias to target the kingdom.
Yemeni officials assert that it was the UAE that “smuggled Houthi drones”. It also underscores the unlimited support Abu Dhabi has given the Houthis before taking control of Sana’a in 2014 and helping them advance from Saada to Sanaa as part of its fight against the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
In July 2014, Abu Dhabi received then-Houthi political bureau member Ali al-Bukhaiti, as the group’s special envoy to the UAE, and held meetings with high-ranking officials in Abu Dhabi, coinciding with the fall of Imran in the hands of the Houthis, after which events followed by the siege of the Yemeni capital Sanaa with crowds and gunmen.
The war in Yemen has left about 10,000 people dead and more than 56,000 wounded since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Humanitarian officials say the toll is much higher.