UAE distancing itself from war against Houthis in Yemen

It is withdrawing from a large base in Eritrea from which its troops carried out operations in Yemen. Regional experts: the UAE is changing its strategic ambitions and reducing its presence in East Africa that exposes it to dangers

Fighters from Yemen's "Southern Transitional Council", who were trained by the UAE, in 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

The United Arab Emirates is disconnecting itself from the fighting against the Houthis in Yemen, and satellite images show that it is dismantling and withdrawing from its large base in East Africa that serves as a base for its operations in Yemen's war.   

AP and Africa Intelligence report that the facility in question is the Assab base where Abu Dhabi built a port, extended a runway for planes, and built buildings for troops from the Emirates, Yemen and Sudan. The base was built many years ago by Italy when it ruled that part of the world, and the UAE adapted it for the war in Yemen about five years ago.   

The troops belonging to the Saudi coalition against the Houthis were sent from the base in Eritrea, located only 70km away from Yemen. The Emirates invested millions of dollars in the base and deployed planes, remotely controlled aircraft, artillery and helicopters to the facility.  

Recently there have been increasing signs that the UAE is leaving the scene: soldiers were withdrawn, boats started to remove equipment, and some of the base's buildings were dismantled. Experts from private intelligence institute Stratfor in Texas said that the UAE is changing its strategic ambitions and reducing its presence in East Africa that exposed it to dangers and risks. 

The commentators are of the opinion that it is possible that the UAE reached a decision to focus on threats from another direction – Iran. In light of the tensions between the US and Iran (that supports the Houthis, which actually are its proxies in Yemen), and several attacks on UAE ships, which are threats closer to home, the commentators say, Dubai intends to focus on other fronts. 

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