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Cracks in Saudi Arabia's alliance with UAE is bad news for Trump



The two supported financially and rhetorically President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in Egypt. And there is a close personal connection between Mohammed bin Salman and the effective leader of the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
But cracks have begun to emerge in the region's most important alliance, as the campaign in Yemen focuses on impasse and tactics differ in opposing Iran's behavior in the Persian Gulf. And that could become a headache for the Trump administration, already frustrated by the Saudi-UAE spat on Qatar.

The original purpose of the Yemen offensive was to dampen Iranian influence exercised there by the Houthi rebels. But Operation Storm Storm was far from decisive. It turned into a crash ̵

1; and a PR disaster because of the enormous civilian suffering.

The UAE appears to have come to the conclusion that war is unthinkable and too costly to continue and to withdraw its forces in Yemen in July – though it remains committed to counter-terrorist strikes against Yemen's al-Qaeda counterparts and ISIS.
  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Jeddah on June 6, 2018 6, 2018.

While his military presence in Yemen was modest, the UAE struck above its weight, exerting a great influence on factions in the southern part, while the Saudis mainly worked with internationally recognized a government that is actually based in Riyadh.

Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Politics in the Middle East spent time embedded with the UAE forces in Yemen, saying: "Only the UAE had the military power and local allied forces to persuasively threaten defeat for the Houthis." [19659009] The withdrawal from the Emirates presence in the port of Aden has sparked a confrontation between southern separatists, backed and armed by the UAE, and the remains of a Saudi-backed city government. UAE allies attacked government facilities and took control of much of the city, including the port. Yemeni ministers have blamed the UAE for the success of the separatists.

Last month, a senior Emirati official described the withdrawal as a "strategic redeployment" and said that the UAE had trained about 90,000 troops in Yemen.

"Our commitment in Yemen remains. We are part of the coalition. Our discussion of our current redistribution has been going on for more than a year," said a CNN official.

  Civil war in Yemen in the context of civil war

But analysts see the move of the UAE as a signal to Saudi : it's time to end this war. Eurasia Group's Ayham Kamal says the UAE can "try to encourage Saudis to think more about the split" without a military victory on the horizon.

Christine Divan of the Gulf Arab Institute agrees that Saudi Arabia is already more isolated in Yemen and "needs settlement with the Houthis to secure its border north." Reducing the UAE may bring more urgency to this task, but it does not strengthen the Saudi position in the negotiations. "

While the Saudi Arabia / UAE coalition overrules some Houthi profits, the rebels still control the capital and much of the north. They are capable of weekly missile and unmanned attacks against Saudi targets – from airports to pipelines. The latest attack was against Sheiba gas facility last weekend.

There are significant Saudi land forces in Yemen – about 10,000, according to two sources familiar with Saudi deployments. But much of Saudi Arabia's campaign against Hussites is driven by mixed air rescues. and civilian casualties, in opposition to the US Congress for providing arms and aiding the coalition, last month President Trump vetoed legislation to block $ 8.1 billion from arms sales in the kingdom

the offensive will inevitably worsen what is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, but investing in the UN-led peace process will involve rebate concessions, a humiliating descent from the Saudi throne after four years of conflict.

For now, the Saudis and the UAE have been trying to get the various anti-Houthi parties to settle their differences. Last week bin Zayed met Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the Crown Prince in Jeddah, saying that both governments were calling on "rival Yemeni parties to cease fire and support the language of dialogue and reason."

While the talks were full of brotherly solidarity, the fact remains that the war in Yemen is even more unsolved after the withdrawal of the UAE. The likely beneficiaries are the Huts, the Trump administration's exhibit A against Iran's regional expansionism.

Knights says, "No one in Washington or the UN should accept that the current battle lines are fixed. They could easily move in favor of the Hutists, with catastrophic consequences for the UN peace process."

Strategic Union

Despite the divergent approaches in Yemen, the Saudi-UAE remains intact. Last week, Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anuar Gargash stated that ties "will continue to be strong as they are based on sound foundations and shared values."

The Alliance has shifted the role of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has been weakened by the ongoing dispute between the Saudis, the Emirates and Bahrain on the one hand, and Qatar on the other.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates remain united in opposing Iranian expansionism: they both support large-scale US sanctions on Tehran and their military coordinates closely.

But the UAE may adopt different tactics.

  Saudi Arabia and Israel urge the United States to oppose Iran. Trump should not take the bait

Ayham Kamal says his focus is to avoid escalation in the Gulf. Earlier this month, an Emirati delegation went to Tehran to discuss maritime security. The two sides signed what the Iranians called a "memorandum of understanding" to boost co-operation at sea.

Following the sabotage of four tankers near Fujairah in May, the UAE was careful not to blame Iran directly for the attack. Crown Prince Mohammed was more outspoken, saying in an interview: "We see how the Iranian regime and its proxies conducted sabotage operations against four oil tankers near the port of Fujairah."

Some observers also detect growing caution amongst the Emirs over the Trump administration.

The euphoria of May 2017, when the US president visited Riyadh on his first trip abroad and openly endorsed Saudi Arabia's push against Qatar, has long since disappeared.

Hussein Ibish, who runs the Gulf Arab Institute for the Arab States, writes in the Carnegie Endowment's Diwan Newsletter that "while Emirates officials welcome the US administration's campaign of" maximum pressure "against Iran, they warn almost a year that there needs to be a political path that can turn the pressure into improved Iranian behavior. "

The Emirates economy – and especially the Dubai economy – will be severely affected by any conflict in the Persian Gulf. While Saudi Arabia can export oil and gas to b

Joe Makaron, an associate at the Arab Center in Washington, believes that opening the UAE to Iran "is tactical, not strategic, and above all a message." to the Trump administration as their relationship has recently broken down on several issues, including with the US rapprochement with Qatar. "

Kamal of the Eurasia group claims mixed signals from the Trump administration to counter Iranian actions in the Gulf. have "left with oite allies in the Gulf to cope with the burden of efforts by Tehran for retribution "against the imposition of US sanctions. [19659011] This has led to some reassessments, says Kamal. In the long run, the Gulf states envisage the United States becoming a less reliable partner and gradually abandoning the Middle East. And in the long run, which is likely to underlie the axis of Saudi Arabia as a counterweight to Iran. But at the moment, according to a Western diplomat familiar with the region, "this is a marriage that has problems."


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