Faithful Hawks UAE’s Yemen Role: Constants and Achievements

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February 9‭, ‬2020‭ ‬was destined for UAE to hit a glorious national event‭: ‬celebrate‭, ‬officially and publicly‭, ‬the safe return of our valiant forces who joined their Saudi-led Arab coalition counterparts in Operation Determination Storm and Operation Restoring Hope in sisterly Yemen since 2015‭. ‬The‭ ‬“Faithful Hawks”‭ ‬celebration‭, ‬which was attended by Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates‭, ‬highlighted two main points‭: ‬First‭, ‬expressing‭ ‬gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives for their nation‭; ‬Second‭, ‬showing pride in‭, ‬and appreciation of‭, ‬our armed forces‭ ‬for heroic actions‭, ‬courage and high fighting skills in performing the missions entrusted to them by our wise leadership‭.‬
The UAE participation in the Saudi-led Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen from the rebel militia is highly significant vis-à-vis national policy and principles‭, ‬and highlights our role in maintaining peace‭, ‬stability and welfare regionally and globally‭. ‬It was rightly expressed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum‭, ‬Vice-President‭, ‬Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai‭, ‬who said‭ ‬“Our valiant soldiers who participated in Operation Restoring Hope in sisterly Yemen gave‭, ‬along with their Arab coalition counterparts‭, ‬their best sacrifice and taught the world that UAE’s contribution will always remain a cornerstone for regional security and stability and that our siding with rightness is rock-solid”‭. ‬The same idea was crystalized by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭, ‬Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces‭, ‬who said‭ ‬“Our armed forces have been‭, ‬and will always be indeed‭, ‬for peace and stability in the region and the world‭, ‬and that the UAE is‭ ‬for peace‭, ‬welfare and hope”‭.‬
First‭: ‬UAE Involvement in Yemen—Strategic Constants and Considerations
UAE’s attitude toward restoring legitimacy in Yemen since day one was conditioned by certain preliminary and strategic considerations‭, ‬most notably‭:‬
1‭ ‬
UAE’s preliminary and constant attitude supporting the Arab causes and out brothers in distress‭:‬
The Arab dimension has been a crucial foreign policy element for the UAE since establishment in 1971‭, ‬which was practically shown at regional and international levels thanks to the unionist philosophy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan‭ (‬May God‭ ‬bless his soul‭) ‬who said‭ ‬“No nation on the face of this planet had the essentials of unity the way the Arab nation had‭; ‬the essentials of history‭, ‬religion‭, ‬tongue and common interests”‭ ‬A case in point is the UAE constitution that supports crucial Arab causes and maintains‭, ‬to the farthest possible extent‭, ‬cooperation with Arab nations in order to achieve national aspirations in unity and better life”‭ ‬and that‭ ‬“‭(‬UAE‭) ‬Federation is part and parcel of the greater Arab world with which we share the bonds of religion‭, ‬tongue‭, ‬history and common destiny‭. ‬The Federation has one people to embrace‭, ‬is part of the Arab nation and has its doors wide open for all Arab countries‭.‬”‭ ‬An October 1971‭ ‬Emiri statement outlined UAE foreign policy’s Arab relations by saying‭ ‬“Our newly-fledged foreign policy is evident and clear-cut‭: ‬an Arab policy that believes in common destiny of the Arab nations‭, ‬thrives to maintain Arab rights and national aspirations‭, ‬and works hand in hand with sisterly nations”‭ ‬In a December 1972‭ ‬National Day speech‭, ‬the late Sheikh Zayed outlined four tracks of national foreign policy‭: ‬settle differences between UAE and neighboring countries by peaceful means‭, ‬expand the Federation by leaving the door wide open to interested partners‭, ‬support Arab causes and coordinate foreign‭, ‬economic and otherwise policies with sisterly Arab nations‭, ‬and open up to the world”‭. ‬
The genuine approach founded by the late Sheikh Zayed continued to play as a foreign policy cornerstone during the time of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭, ‬UAE President‭, (‬May God save him‭) ‬who takes‭ ‬“Arab integration‭, ‬interdependence and cooperation as a cornerstone for the welfare and prosperity of the Arab peoples”‭.‬
Accordingly‭, ‬Houthis’‭ ‬control of Yemen and attempts to establish a sectarian state was regarded by the UAE as a threat to an outstanding Arab nation‭,‬‭ ‬its identity and Arab affiliation‭, ‬and hastened to intervene to save Yemen from Houthis‭.‬
2‭ ‬
UAE Security Part and Parcel of Arab National Security‭:‬
The UAE considers itself part and parcel of Arab national security and that threat to any Arab nation is a threat to its own security‭. ‬This was one of the most important considerations that shaped UAE attitude since 2011‭ ‬turmoil and 2015‭ ‬military intervention‭. ‬This was made clear by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum‭, ‬Vice-President‭, ‬Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai‭, ‬who said in a May 2017‭ ‬speech on the unification of the armed forces that‭ ‬“‮…‬‭ ‬Special tribute to our force that handles tasks outside of the UAE in support of righteousness and high national interests‮…‬‭ ‬We‭ ‬believe that national‭, ‬regional and global security are one‮…‬‭ ‬We joined regional and international anti-terror coalitions to abort attempts to hijack Yemen and its identity to convert it into a base to threaten Saudi Arabia’s security‮…‬”
Similarly‭, ‬in a speech on the return in November 2015‭ ‬of a UAE armed forces regiment that joined Operation Restore Legitimacy in‭ ‬Yemen‭, ‬His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭, ‬Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces‭, ‬said‭ ‬“The‭ ‬“participation of our valiant soldiers in Operation Determination Storm and‭ ‬Operation Restore Hope in sisterly Yemen has played‭ ‬a crucial role in defeating the ambitions of sectarian and rebellious militias and maintaining Yemen’s identity and position as an all-time strategic depth for GCC nations‮…‬‭ ‬The Arab military coalition to restore Yemen’s legitimacy and freedom flashed a meaningful message that Arabs have the ability and will for joint action to maintain sovereignty and integrity and abort attempts for interference under any pretext”‭.‬
3‭ ‬
Siding with Just Causes‭:‬
The UAE has been a staunch supporter not only of Arab and Islamic causes but also just of causes and people brought under oppression and aggression”‭.‬
Similarly‭, ‬in a November 2016‭ ‬speech on Martyr’s Day‭, ‬His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said‭ ‬“What our courageous officers and soldiers have done in Yemen will rightfully go down in the UAE‭, ‬Arab‭, ‬Islamic and human history‭ ‬as a campaign in support of the wronged and oppressed‭, ‬of righteousness and restoring regional security and stability”‭.‬
4‭ ‬
Strategic Considerations‭:‬
The UAE went to Yemen out of strategic or geostrategic considerations‭, ‬notably Yemen’s strategic position at Bab Al Mandab Strait‭, ‬a vital international waterway for world‭, ‬Gulf and UAE oil shipments‭. ‬Seizing control of this waterway poses a threat to UAE and Gulf oil exports and to Fujaira Port‭.‬
5‭ ‬
Support Saudi Arabia‭:‬
Houthis’‭ ‬revolt against legitimacy in Yemen meant a direct threat to southern Saudi Arabia‭, ‬and UAE believes that any threat to Saudi Arabia is a threat to GCC nations’‭ ‬security and Arab national security in general‭. ‬This was repeatedly highlighted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who‭, ‬attending Gulf Shield-1‭ ‬military exercise in Saudi Arabia in April 2018‭, ‬said‭ ‬“Saudi Arabia is an impregnable Arab Islamic fortress against any attempt to jeopardize regional security‭, ‬interfere in Arab internal affairs or play havoc with regional peoples’‭ ‬destiny and accomplishments‭. ‬The UAE stands with Saudi Arabia in the same trench‭, ‬and the UAE-Saudi coalition is premised on rock-solid foundation of mutual understanding‭, ‬respect and joint action to consolidate regional security and stability‭, ‬maintain Arab national security against any threat‭. ‬His Highness added that‭ ‬“The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan‭ (‬May God bless his soul‭) ‬believed in Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role as a regional safety valve and a cornerstone of Gulf and Arab security‭. ‬The same approach was pursued and consolidated by the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭ (‬May God save him‭) ‬–‭ ‬a fact driven home by progressive bilateral relations at all levels‮…‬”‭. ‬These relations have set a perfect example of how brotherly relations should be‭, ‬especially in historical junctures witnessed‭ ‬by the Arabian Gulf‭, ‬Arab region and the world today”‭.‬
6‭ ‬
Support World Peace and Stability‭:‬
This is one of defining principles of UAE foreign policy that prompted UAE attitude vis-à-vis Yemeni crisis since 2011‭. ‬UAE’s intervention in Yemen was essential‭, ‬if not inevitable‭, ‬as indicated in November 2015‭ ‬by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who pointed out that‭ ‬“We did not go to Yemen with a private agenda‭. ‬Neither did we attack others or‭ ‬monger war‭, ‬for it is not our style‭. ‬It was imposed upon us after exhausting all means of peaceful solution‮…‬‭ ‬Our participation in the Arab military coalition in Yemen came within as a nation-wide mission made inevitable by humanitarian considerations and upon a request by the legitimate government in Yemen and in implementation of international legitimacy resolutions”‭. ‬His Highness added that‭ ‬“The UAE and Arab military intervention in Yemen was legitimate because it was based on the right to self-defence according to the UN Charter‭, ‬Article 51‭, ‬as ordained by Islamic Sharia‭ (‬Law‭) ‬and upon a direct request by the legitimate government in Yemen‭, ‬according to joint Arab defence agreement and UN reso‭ ‬lutions 2014‭, ‬2051‭ ‬and 2140‭ ‬that label Houthis’‭ ‬revolt against legitimacy in Yemen as violating international community resolutions‭.‬
Second‭: ‬Military Performance‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬Heroism‭, ‬Competence‭, ‬Accomplishment and Ethics
The UAE armed forces in Yemen demonstrated an immaculate ability to perform all missions any time any place with top-rated efficiency and professionalism‭. ‬Former United States Marine Corps General and former Commander in Chief‭ ‬of the United States Central‭ ‬Command‭ (‬CENTCOM‭), ‬Anthony Zinni‭, ‬was quoted by Reuters as saying‭: ‬“The UAE is a top-class regional military force with potentials steadily increasing compared to its size”‭, ‬adding that the UAE showed survival skills in Yemen despite casualties”‭.‬
The speech of Staff Lieutenant General Engineer Essa Saif bin Zaabalan Al Mazrou’i‭, ‬Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and Co-Commander of Joint Operations in Yemen‭, ‬celebrating the Faithful Hawks on 9‭ ‬February 2020‭ ‬demonstrated the great military achievements of these forces in Yemen‭. ‬The UAE lost 108‭ ‬lives there‭.‬
UAE Military Role in Yemen‭: ‬Distinct Remarks
1‭. ‬UAE military performance in Yemen was not only superior‭, ‬competent and professional but also ethical‭, ‬as explained by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan celebrating the same return of forces from Yemen‭: ‬“The UAE soldiers have revealed their true mettle siding by righteousness and justice and extending a hand to the needy”‭. ‬In 2015‭ ‬His Highness referred repeatedly to the need to stick to the UAE ethics‭, ‬sublime values‭, ‬heritage and principles as taught by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan‭ (‬May God bless his soul‭) ‬and to face challenges and side with righteousness‭.‬
2‭. ‬It reflected the UAE as a nation for not only tolerance and coexistence but also for resolution and determination when it comes to principles or when national security‭ -‬and the security of brotherly nations‭- ‬is undermined‭. ‬“We are for not only peace‭, ‬welfare and love‭, ‬but also for resolution and perseverance when our security‭ -‬and the security of our‭ ‬brothers‭- ‬is at stake”‭, ‬noted His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭.‬
3‭. ‬It crystalized our wise leadership’s vision that only strong nations have the will to defend themselves in a world fraught with danger and challenges‭. ‬In his speech on 40th anniversary of the unification of the UAE Armed Forces in 2016‭, ‬His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan pointed out that‭ ‬“Nations unable to defend themselves and maintain their interests and sovereignty are fragile and cannot live with dignity in a world full of dangers‭, ‬ambitions and threats‮…‬”
4‭. ‬It showed the close relationship between the armed forces and the U AE faithful people who‭ ‬“have been the staunchest supporter of valiant armed forces in their noble mission in Yemen‭ ‬–‭ ‬a customary tradition of our genuine people”‭, ‬as mentioned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan‭.‬
5‭. ‬Finally‭, ‬it helped defend international navigation in the highly strategic Bab Al Mandab which the Houthis sought to control‭ ‬in order to jeopardize international navigation and blackmail international community‭. ‬The Strait‭, ‬which sits off the coasts of‭ ‬Yemen‭, ‬Djibouti and Eritrea and links the Red Sea and the Arab Sea‭, ‬sees more than 21,000‭ ‬ships crossing annually‭, ‬i.e‭. ‬57‭ ‬vessels daily‭. ‬
Third‭: ‬Humanitarian and Developmental Role‭: ‬One Hand to Build‭, ‬Another to Carry Weapons
‭ ‬The UAE went to Yemen carrying not only weapons against rebel militia but also welfare‭, ‬development and humanitarian support for our Yemeni brethren‭. ‬Documented statistics put UAE assistance to Yemen at AED 22‭ ‬billion between 2015‭ ‬and 2019‭. ‬Another AED 367‭ ‬million was offered to Yemen by UAE in 2019‭ ‬within UAE-provided UN Humanitarian Plan for Yemen‭. ‬Schools rehabilitated by the UAE since 2015‭ ‬totaled 1,400‭ ‬in addition to 650‭ ‬health centers throughout Yemen‭.‬
A crucial role was played by the UAE armed forces to secure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to disputed areas‭. ‬Thousands‭ ‬of injured Yemenis were evacuated and the cost of their treatment abroad was provided‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬the UAE helped support the Yemeni economy‭, ‬a step lauded by UN Envoy to Yemen‭, ‬Martin Griffiths in 2018‭.‬
A number of facts are reflected by the UAE’s humanitarian and developmental role in Yemen‭: ‬First‭: ‬The UAE went to Yemen to serve the interests of the Yemeni people‭, ‬their‭ ‬development‭, ‬stability and right to decent life away from suspicious sectarian schemes‭. ‬Second‭: ‬The UAE is used to offer good gestures and development wherever it goes‭. ‬Third‭: ‬The humanitarian and development-conscious dimension has always been a cardinal‭ ‬element in UAE foreign policy since the times of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan‭ (‬May God bless his soul‭).‬
Fourth‭: ‬Fighting Terrorism
In an article published by US Politico Magazine on 2‭ ‬May 2016‭, ‬the former CIA Director‭, ‬Michael Morell‭, ‬mentioned that‭ ‬“The role played by the UAE armed forces in driving away Al Qaeda from southern Yemen is‭ ‬“a perfect lesson to solve the dilemma of how to tackle terrorist groups in control of inhabited areas”‭. ‬“Sunni Gulf states are often depicted in the western media as shying from armed confrontation‭, ‬unable to fight and reluctant to deal with terrorists and extremists but the UAE campaign in Yemen proved these stereotypes are not applicable to Abu Dhabi”‭, ‬he went on‭.‬
In a December 2019‭ ‬symposium on terrorism held at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva‭, ‬Elizabeth Campbell‭, ‬Oxford University researcher‭, ‬lauded Yemeni Transitional Council’s efforts to combat terrorism‭, ‬with UAE’s support‭, ‬there‭.‬
On another note‭, ‬the US President Donald Trump appreciated UAE’s role in releasing the American hostage Danny Burch‭. ‬
Fifth‭: ‬Maintain Nation-State
UAE and Arab intervention in Yemen in 2015‭ ‬was a lifeline for the nation-state there‭, ‬as repeatedly emphasized by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who received the Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi in Abu Dhabi in November 2019‭ ‬and announced that‭ ‬“The UAE and Egypt are co-partners in promoting peace and stability in the Arab region‮…‬”‭.‬
Conclusion
The UAE military‭, ‬humanitarian and developmental mission in Yemen will undoubtedly alive in the memory of Emiratis and Arab nations‭, ‬citing lessons to be learned by the coming generations on how to defend‭, ‬and die for‭, ‬national soil and side by righteousness and justice against injustice‭, ‬oppression and aggression‭. ‬

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