The United Arab Emirates seems to be shifting policies in a new decade of more political perseverance than military interference.
United Arab Emirates was known for its direct role in international developments in areas like Yemen, Palestine, Libya and even Iran in 2010s. With the shift in political scene of the Middle East and the new administration in the United States, Abu Dhabi took steps in “recalibrating” its policies across the region.
As a nation considered successful in economic overhaul, United Arab Emirates, frightened by the contagious wave of Arab Spring in Early 2010s, adopted policies to evade the hazard. To keep the dynastic rule on power, the authorities believed neutralization of political Islam was the pivotal strategy.
The result was bloody intervention in Yemen war, launched by Saudi Arabia, and accelerating the arms deals in the region. Sources close to policy-makers say the country plans to lessen military and logistic supports for Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s eastern-based military commander. The United Nations started a unifying cause to end the conflicts in the country.
Other sources also announced that the country is withdrawing troops from a military base located in Eritrea. The decision was made after the country’s policy of withdrawal from Yemen war was finally implemented.
The US president Joe Biden’s straight policy to end war in Yemen, instigated by his predecessor, has been an influential element in UAE’s moves. Furthermore, erosive wars and the destructive force of Covid-19 outbreak has pressed the country’s economy to a 6.6% contraction in 2020.
The Change in policies and actions started with meaningful change in key authorities. Anwar Gargash, served as Minister of state for foreign affairs for thirteen years and famous for his role in the countries interventions stepped down recently.
The substitute, Khalifa Shaheen al-Marar, was UAE’s ambassador to Iran, Turkey, and Syria. The choice indicates the country’s determination for fixing regional rivalries. Joe Biden announced his decision to reverse Trump’s withdrawal from nuclear deal with Iran, then supported by Emirati Dynasty.
The shifting climate needs shifting policies and seemingly shifting personnel. As Tarek Megerisi, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, puts it, “There is a new administration in the U.S. and the Emiratis need to get the optics right.”
The most obvious policy shift occurred in Yemen, where compliance with American policies clearly stands out. Intervention in Yemen with the aim of destroying Houthis failed after six years of fire and blood. The result was one of the most hazardous humanitarian crisis of the century.
David Wearing of Royal Holloway, University of London, refers to this Saudi-Emirati failure asserting “Wiser heads in the UAE would accept that they don’t have the capacity for this and, therefore, Biden might be pushing an open door.”
Stepping back from military involvement in Libya may ostensibly lead to reinforcement of Turkey positions in the country. Ankara, however, is also shifting policies form offense to diplomacy frustrated by long years of regional conflicts.
“All sides seem to be getting tired of these forever wars. They’re realizing that they’re better off reorienting those expensive and politically-fraught strategies,” says Mohamed Anis Salem, former ambassador and UN official.
Abu Dhabi’s normalization agreement with Israel must be assessed in the same vein. The country, under harsh influence of Donald Trump administration, stepped into a deal in which failure is considered the only outcome. Tel Aviv humiliates Emirati travelers and recently announced no Israeli company would participate in Arms fair in UAE.
UAE’s goals have gone through no change while policies and strategies, along with diplomats, have changed. Costly interventions have given place to politics, diplomacy and local proxies. Leaning tensely on US policies and setting self-centered aims may lead the country to further failures in coming years.