United Arab Emirates-Backed Forces Square Off with Saudi Allies in Southern Yemen

In this file photo taken Saturday, March 21, 2015, members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen’s favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. The United Arab Emirates, one of the most powerful parties in Yemen’s war, has begun to draw down its forces in past weeks in 2019, leaving the Saudi-led coalition with a weakened ground presence and fewer tactical options. The withdrawal of several thousand troops comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and as the Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels known as Houthis increase their attacks on Saudi Arabia.
In this file photo taken Saturday, March 21, 2015, members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. The United Arab Emirates, one of the most powerful parties in Yemen’s war, has begun to draw down its forces in past weeks in 2019, leaving the Saudi-led coalition with a weakened ground presence and fewer tactical options. The withdrawal of several thousand troops comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and as the Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels known as Houthis increase their attacks on Saudi Arabia. AP Photo
In this file photo taken Saturday, March 21, 2015, members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen’s favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. The United Arab Emirates, one of the most powerful parties in Yemen’s war, has begun to draw down its forces in past weeks in 2019, leaving the Saudi-led coalition with a weakened ground presence and fewer tactical options. The withdrawal of several thousand troops comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and as the Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels known as Houthis increase their attacks on Saudi Arabia.
In this file photo taken Saturday, March 21, 2015, members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. The United Arab Emirates, one of the most powerful parties in Yemen’s war, has begun to draw down its forces in past weeks in 2019, leaving the Saudi-led coalition with a weakened ground presence and fewer tactical options. The withdrawal of several thousand troops comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and as the Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels known as Houthis increase their attacks on Saudi Arabia. AP Photo

United Arab Emirates-Backed Forces Square Off with Saudi Allies in Southern Yemen

Developments in Yemen’s four-year-old civil war took a new turn on Monday when United Arab Emirates-backed separatists seized the southern port of Aden from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been cooperating militarily to bolster Hadi against the Houthi movement, which seized control of the Yemeni capital Sana’a in 2014 and is backed by Iran.

Following the start of fighting in Aden, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and the de facto leader of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Mecca to discuss the latest developments. During his visit, he called on warring parties in Aden to “defuse tensions,” but refrained from condemning the separatists for their move against Hadi’s government. The developments come as the UAE draws down its formal military presence in Yemen and relies more heavily on local forces it has trained and equipped to continue pursuing its objectives in the country. The war in Yemen has claimed thousands of lives and a UN report predicts the death toll will rise to over 230,000 by the end of this year, with most deaths resulting from side effects of war such as famine and a lack of access to medical supplies.

Joining us to discuss tensions between the UAE and Saudi Arabia and broader conditions in the Yemeni civil war is Shireen Al-Adeimi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.