The United Arab Emirates is using armed drones to monitor Iran’s military influence in the Yemen civil war, new leaked emails from Emirati Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, appear to show.
In the leaks, which were sent exclusively to MEMO, US Chief Staff of the Department of Defence, Jeremy Bash can be seen trying to sell drones to the UAE to help with its “counterterrorism operations” in Yemen.
“The administration appreciates, the UAE faces complex security challenges to include the unchecked movement of arms, supplies, and people from Iran to the battleground of Yemen and Syria,” Bash’s wrote in one email in February.
The UAE is operating as part of the Saudi-led coalition which began a systematic bombing campaign in Yemen in March 2015 at the behest of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The Yemeni premier had requested help to neutralise territorial threats posed by the Iranian-backed Houthi group which had taken over control of the capital, Sana’a, and the government facilities within it.
“Guardian is the only platform that can provide the UAE Armed Forces with a cost-effective, persistent, and all-weather capability to support these missions,” Bash continued in the email.
“I said no,” Al-Otaiba replied, “we already have armed [unmanned aerial vehicle] UAV’s from China.”
The Chinese drones purchased by UAE
However the emails show that the UAE was dissatisfied with the drones it was using. “The Chinese system has challenges communicating with the rest of our US infrastructure so it’s challenging,” Al-Otaiba explained. “We simply opted for the Chinese version because it was available.”
“I think we have an opening here between the WH (flynn) [sic] and the Pentagon (mattis) [sic],” he added in reference to then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and US Secretary of State for Defence James Mattis.
At a time when the US drone policy has attracted global criticism, it is concerning that the UAE is relying on this policy.
Some 9,930 people across Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been killed in drone strikes, with 2,749 reported injured.