A United Arab Emirate minister has claimed that his country can take on a bigger military role in the region, saying it can no longer rely on Western allies like the United States and Britain for its security.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Thursday that the UAE was ready to deploy more troops across the Middle East now that the US and the European countries differed on their policies toward the security of the region.
“In this current international system, it is no longer ‘write a cheque and someone is going to come and secure the stability in the region’. You have to do some of the burden-sharing,” said Gargash in a speech in London.
The minister said his country was mainly worried about the increasing differences between the US and Europe on how to deal with Iran.
The UAE has spent billions on military equipment and weapons under the sheer pretext of countering Iran’s regional influence. It has also joined Saudi Arabia and other allies in a devastating war against Yemen. The campaign has claimed the lives of around 15,000 people, mostly civilians. UAE forces specifically have an active presence in an ongoing operation to capture Yemen’s only major port in Hudaydah, on the Red Sea.
Furthermore, the Emirates is trying to establish control over the strategic island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, which Yemen’s resigned president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had rented out to the Persian Gulf kingdom for nearly a century.
The UAE is also believed to be trying to establish its foothold in North Africa. It is see as a main impediment to peace in Libya by providing financial support to the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, in defiance to the mandate of an internationally-recognized government in capital Tripoli. The UAE has also established bases and commercial ports in northern Somalia as well as a base in the Eritrean port of Assab, South of Eritrea, the UAE agreed with the authorities of Somalia’s breakaway northern territory of Somaliland in February to open a naval base in the port town of Berbera.
According to the Associated Press, the UAE has new overseas bases on the African continent after deploying expeditionary forces to Yemen and Afghanistan.
In his Thursday speech, Gargash confirmed reports that several million dollars of UAE cash had been stolen from a civilian plane in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu.
“We’d like to continue to do our work, but we have made it very clear that we have been wronged with regards to how we were treated with the shipment of nine-point-something million dollars,” said Gargash, adding “There are attempts currently to mediate between us and Somalia.”
The UAE is among the world’s top five arms importers, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in June. The report said that Abu Dhabi even outpaced China in buying arms in the past five years, adding that main suppliers of weapons to the country were the US, Britain and France.