Will the unprecedented Houthi attack affect the UAE’s reputation as an...

Posted in: 20/01/2022 – 12:30

                The attack launched by the Houthis on the United Arab Emirates raised a wave of questions about the impact on the reputation of this country that presents itself as an "oasis of safety" within a Middle East wracked by conflict and poverty.  Observers also wonder if the UAE will re-enforce its military presence in Yemen, after it had announced its reduction in 2019.                

The attack launched by the Houthis on Abu Dhabi opens the doors of a new chapter in the war in To whom With the Houthi rebels targeting the wealthy Gulf state known as a "safe haven" in the region.

The Houthis have repeatedly threatened to strike the UAE, but this is their first confirmed attack on its territory. It was carried out with ballistic missiles and drones, according to what the Houthis announced, and it hit oil tanks in an industrial area near “ADNOC”, the Abu Dhabi Oil Company, and caused the death of three people and a fire near the airport, according to the UAE authorities.

“The Houthis seem to know that the UAE’s reputation is at the heart of its strategic goals,” explains Dania Dhafer, director of the Gulf International Research Forum, adding that the rebels “hope to achieve a painful blow at a low cost to them.” Dhafer believes that if these attacks are repeated, “the reputation of the security oasis in the Middle East” could be “damaged”.

But the researcher specializing in Gulf affairs, Iman Al-Hussein, rules out that these attacks will “significantly affect the reputation of the UAE,” and says that the Gulf state “has built a strong brand and an image that can withstand the recent attacks.”

It should be noted that the population of the Emirates is ten million, ninety percent of whom are foreigners of two hundred different nationalities. The UAE has imposed itself as a financial and business center, with its luxury hotels, modern buildings, research in the field of technology, its pursuit of an economy based on diversifying energy sources, and its space ambitions.

The UAE presents itself as an oasis of “security and safety” for business and entertainment and a bridge to the world, within a Middle East wracked by conflict and poverty. It also seeks to strengthen its diplomatic influence in the region. The Gulf state is a favorite destination for many, especially young Arabs looking for job opportunities.

It has invested heavily in the advancement and development of its economy. One of its biggest successes is the Emirate of , which has become an important financial, tourist and media attraction within a few decades, and a center for the headquarters of major companies visited by millions of people annually. But at the same time, the UAE has been participating in a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen since 2015 in support of the Yemeni government in the face of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who launched a massive offensive to control Yemen since 2014.

The UAE indicated in 2019 that it would reduce its forces in several areas in Yemen as part of a “redeployment” plan for “strategic and tactical” reasons.

For his part, the chief Yemeni analyst at the American research company “Navante Group”, Muhammad Al-Basha, believes that “although Abu Dhabi has withdrawn its military equipment from Yemen, Ansar Allah (Houthis) link the military operations of the giant brigades in Shabwa with the Emirates, which played a role key in forming, training and arming these forces.

Reclassification of the Houthis

The UAE pledged to respond to the attack. And the bombing of the military coalition in which it participates, the capital, Sanaa, which it controls Houthis violently in response to the attack. At the same time, the UAE called for an emergency session of the Security Council to condemn “terrorist attacks.”

On Wednesday, it also called on the United States to “support the reclassification of the Houthi terrorist organization as a foreign terrorist organization.” For his part, a US State Department spokesman said, “The Biden administration has sanctioned, and will continue to punish, leaders of Houthi forces in Yemen who participate in military attacks that exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, pose a serious threat to civilians, and contribute to broader instability in Yemen and elsewhere in the region.” .

The administration of former US President Donald included the Houthis on the list of “terrorist” groups in January 2021. Then the administration of Joe Biden canceled that.

In addition, researcher at Oxford University Elizabeth Kendall points out that the attack constitutes a “major escalation”, but the UAE “has invested heavily in Yemen, especially in the political and military infrastructure in the south,” and therefore “is unlikely to deviate from its long-term policy, for example through Increasing its troop presence in Yemen once again on the basis of provocation.

France 24/AFP


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