(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates has withdrawn some troops from Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah and its military presence in the rest of the war-ravaged country will “ebb and flow” depending on the situation, a senior Emirati official said.
“I want to be clear that the redeployment is strategic in Hodeidah and around the ports,” the official, who asked not to be named, told reporters on Monday. “In other parts of Yemen it will be tactical and it will ebb and flow based on our commitments in the country.”
The redeployment, first reported by Reuters last week, comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran since the Trump administration tightened sanctions on Iranian oil exports in early May. It has also raised questions about how closely the U.A.E’s policy is aligned with Saudi Arabia, its closest ally and the leader of a coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Emirati official said that while the draw-down was planned and carried out in coordination with Saudi Arabia, “we can’t be blind to other strategic and geopolitical concerns.”
Yemen’s Civil War Is Spilling Deeper Into Gulf Region: QuickTake
The redeployment isn’t the first sign that the two allies don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything.
While both countries welcomed increased American pressure on Iran under President Donald Trump, Emirati officials have struck an increasingly cautious tone and called for deescalation as fears of a slide into a new Middle East war have grown.
The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia got involved in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, to support the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Houthis, who’d seized control of the capital Sana’a and other cities.
While the coalition’s campaign has helped recover many areas, the U.A.E. has sided with southern separatists against Hadi’s forces, leading to what analysts say is a lack of coherence in the campaign.
The war has also turned into a quagmire despite the overwhelming military superiority of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The Houthis have fired hundreds of rockets into Saudi Arabia over the course of the war but have begun to carry out much more damaging drone and missile attacks further inside the country as Gulf tensions have spiked in recent months.
Saudis Halt Oil Pipe on Attack Claimed by Iran-Backed Rebels (1)
The U.A.E. isn’t worried about leaving a vacuum in Hodeidah, a Red Sea port that’s the entry point for much of the humanitarian aid that enters Yemen, because the withdrawals were part of a shaky peace process agreed in Stockholm in December. He said the U.A.E. and its coalition partners had trained 90,000 people who are doing most of the work there already.
“It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military first strategy to a peace first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing,” the official said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Zainab Fattah in Dubai at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at email@example.com, Alaa Shahine
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.