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Will the UAE take military action against Hadi?

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi [File photo]
Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi [File photo]

With the announcement by sacked governor of Aden, Aydarus Al-Zubaydi, that he has created a transitional political council in the city and the south despite the presence of the presidency and the legitimate government under the leadership of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen has been put on the edge of a dangerous turning point. In this way, it is approaching the Libyan model that has been overwhelmed by militias. It has effectively entered the state of division and strife over power, influence and territory.

The contradictions seen in the Libyan city of Benghazi are not far away from the Yemeni scene in Aden, especially after the eruption of a dispute between Hadi and the United Arab Emirates, which has refused to accept his decision to sack its two strongmen, Al-Zubaydi and Hani bin Braik. His decision was considered a slap in the face for Abu Dhabi’s strategic role in the military operations and what they have so far accomplished in the southern provinces.

In statements made to Arab21, Yemeni sources have affirmed that events do not point to any kind of quiet between Abu Dhabi and Hadi after it has been proven that the UAE mobilised its men in order to incite and agitate the public in the streets of Aden and stir up chaos so as to undermine the authority of the legitimate government and erode respect for it.

Read: ‘Southern Yemen’ council formed independent of Hadi, with Emirati support

The UAE endeavours have recently been crowned with the announcement that a transitional political council was set up. The council consists entirely of individuals from the south and they all support secession of the south from the north and returning to the two-states formula with one state in the north and another in the south. This is a proposition that Abu Dhabi supports, according to the source.

Observers have been raising questions about what measures the Saudis will take in view of the escalation taking place, especially after Riyadh declared its support for Hadi’s measures. There is now a growing fear that the security situation may explode and that the UAE may take unilateral steps that could ignite the relationship that has never been so tense between the two sides.

A security and military reading of the overall formations set up by the UAE, which continue to be at its disposal, suggest that a confrontation is likely. This would amount to a declaration that the south is entering an endless phase of conflicts, especially as the sacked minister Hani bin Braik, who is supported by Abu Dhabi, continues to head all the military and security formations called “The Security Belt Forces”, which number more than 12,000 soldiers and functions in the regions of Aden, Lahj and Abyan.

Arabi21 sources have said that these formations have tightened their grip around the above-mentioned regions, in addition to Aden International Airport. They are said to be functioning in tandem with other UAE military forces. They also carry out campaigns to detain activists who are opposed to their policies and their affiliation. On previous occasions, these forces clashed, using live ammunition, with the Presidential Guard Forces, specifically in the vicinity of the airport.

As for Hadramout, the United Arab Emirates established the “Hadramout Elite”, which is composed of thousands of armed men and functions specifically in the coastal region with the sponsorship and complete support of the UAE. According to the information available, the only thing that prevents these elite forces from seizing control of the Hadramout desert is the presence of armed forces loyal to Hadi.

Observers have expressed concern that in the aftermath of the severance of relations between Hadi and Abu Dhabi, Aden may slip into a dark tunnel of chaos in terms of the lack of security and the eruption of fighting between the forces of the legitimate government that are loyal to Hadi and the armed formations that are supported by the United Arab Emirates.

Image of Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh [BaFana3/Twitter]

Image of Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh [BaFana3/Twitter]

The observers also point to the presence of cells affiliated with the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. These cells are said to be tasked with adding fuel to the fire, agitating hostility and inciting differences in order to confuse matters and weaken the Arab military coalition that is led by Saudi Arabia.

A worst-case scenario

The deep crisis and the events taking place at the present time in Aden and the southern provinces may lead to several possible scenarios. The worst of these, according to analysts, may be the dispute on the ground among the main components of the Arab coalition, particularly between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The former does not agree fully with the Abu Dhabi policy that is heading in the direction of restoring separation between the north and the south of Yemen. In the meantime, the United Arab Emirates is seeking to incite all sorts of separatist inclinations in the south.

In the absence of any political approach, the affairs of the city, which is considered to be the political capital of the legitimate government and of the revolutionary components, will turn into an open arena for competing militias. Eventually, this will lead to frustrating and defeating the objectives of “Operation Decisive Storm” and “Restoring Hope” and will drive the country into endless chaos.‬

Image of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on March 28, 2017 [Bandar Algalous/ Saudi Kingdom Council Handout/Anadolu Agency]

Image of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on March 28, 2017 [Bandar Algalous/ Saudi Kingdom Council Handout/Anadolu Agency]

In the meantime, analysts have stressed that the biggest loss incurred from transforming Aden into a “new Benghazi” at this time when the Yemeni revolution is fighting its war against the Houthis and Saleh will be borne by the Arab coalition as well as by the Yemeni people. Riyadh, which is seeking to defeat the Houthis and Saleh and keep them far away from its borders and put an end as soon as possible to the military haemorrhage in Yemen, will, in particular, pay a heavy price.

Arabi21 sources, which preferred not to disclose their identities, believe that the greatest beneficiary of the anticipated conflict will be Iran whose own vision for the region will be served and whose objective of breaking the Arab coalition in Yemen will be accomplished, thus turning the country into an arena of war among various militias. Consequently, neighbouring countries will be exhausted having found themselves sunk into the Yemeni quagmire as the country becomes a failed state.

The sources noted in this regard the statements made by Qais Al-Khazali, leader of the League of the Righteous, who predicted that the project he called “the Persian full moon” is about to be accomplished. He said that by the time of the appearance of the Messiah, who is the twelfth hidden Shia Imam, their troops would have been completed with the participation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, the League Of The Righteous and their brothers in Syria and Iraq, as he put it.

Translated from Arabi21, 11 May 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

AfricaArticleLibyaMiddle EastOpinionSaudi ArabiaUAEYemen
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