Member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council Ahmed al-Rahwi told the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the forced displacement of people from the island, also known as Perim, points to a scheme aimed at asserting overwhelming dominance over the Bab el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
Rahwi said former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shortly after the Saudi-led devastating military campaign against Yemen, said the strategic importance of the Bab el-Mandeb lies in its geographic position.
“Over the past years, the UAE has aggressively sought to displace the islanders and construct a military installation [on Mayyun island] in line with US and Israeli orders,” the Yemeni official said.
“Aggressors (member states of the Saudi-led coalition) must learn lessons from the past. We (Yemenis) have, on various occasions, proven our might while confronting the occupiers. We will once again demonstrate such a power in Mayyun, and will take effective measures,” Rahwi said.
Back in late May, US research group the Brookings Institute reported that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were quietly consolidating their foothold in Yemen by setting up bases in strategic locations in the war-torn country.
According to Brookings, the Saudis have focused their attention on the eastern province of al-Mahrah, Yemen’s second largest, with 300,000 residents.
Riyadh, which currently has 20 bases and outposts in al-Mahrah, took control of the province in 2017 after occupying its capital and port as well as the border posts with Oman.
Taking al-Mahrah would give Saudi Arabia direct access to the Indian Ocean as Riyadh reportedly has plans to construct an oil pipeline from its Eastern Province through al-Mahrah to the sea, easing its dependence on the Straits of Hormuz for exporting oil, Brookings said.
Abu Dhabi is likewise focused on Yemen’s strategic islands.
The UAE, which has reduced its military presence in Yemen and quietly chosen to get out of the Yemeni quagmire as much as possible, is very active on several key Yemeni islands.
Most recently, satellite images obtained by The Associated Press showed that the UAE is building a sizable air base on the island of Mayyun.
The island — five square miles in size — is key to the control of the strategic Strait of Mandeb.
Abu Dhabi is also in control of the island of Socotra — known as the ‘Jewel of Arabia’ or the “Galapagos of the Middle East” — in the Gulf of Aden which is much larger than Mayyun with as many as 60,000 residents.
The Emiratis have a military base in Socotra that is used to collect intelligence on maritime traffic in the Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden.
The violation of Yemen’s territorial integrity by the Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly condemned by the Yemeni government, rights organizations and the international community.