It was a matter of time before the two main strategic partners, France and the United States, pledged to come to the rescue of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the standoff between them on their soil to start the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. On Friday February 4th, France “decided to provide military support” at this “friendly country (…), in particular to protect its airspace from any intrusion”said Minister of Defense Florence Parly.
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nicknames of “Little Sparta” Due to its large military capabilities, the Emirates were the scene of three attacks in January, including one using drones and missiles, which killed three people in Abu Dhabi on January 17. Yemeni rebels also claimed rocket fire was intercepted on January 24 and 31 over the Emirates, partners in the Saudi-led military coalition that has backed the government against Yemen’s Houthis since 2015.
France is a long-time ally of this powerful Arab country, which until recently was considered a haven of peace in the Middle East. A defense cooperation agreement has linked the two countries since 1995, allowing Abu Dhabi to draw on French military assistance. “At the request of the Government of the Emirates (…), operations to detect and prevent drone or missile attacks on the UAE will be carried out from the French Armed Forces Air Base in the UAE in coordination with the Emirati Armed Forces to carry out aerial surveillance over the territory of the Emirates”, the Armed Forces General Staff stated on Twitter. According to a military source, the French Army’s Rafales are currently conducting two missions a day in the UAE skies.
The USS Cole in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the fifth most important customer of the French defense industry with 4.7 billion euros in incoming orders (between 2011 and 2020). His latest acquisitions – 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 Caracal helicopters – date back to early December during Emmanuel Macron’s mini-tour of the Arabian Peninsula.
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This military deal has also recently brought Paris the sting of a report from the International Federation for Human Rights and the Observatory of Armaments, which accuses it of militarizing a regime accused on several occasions of violating the International.
The push from France comes two days after Washington announced military reinforcements in addition to American troops already present on UAE soil. In particular, the United States will use fifth-generation fighter jets and will send its missile destroyer USS Colecurrently in Bahrain, in the coming days in Abu Dhabi.
The show of force failed to shake the Houthi rebellion. “These new forces arriving in the Emirates do not scare us. We will continue to defend ourselves until the aggression ceases and Emirati-backed forces withdraw.” responded Sultan Al Samei, a senior official of the Iran-backed movement.
“The war in Yemen is not a football game”
On Yemeni soil, the coalition bombs the capital Sanaa almost daily, which has been held by the Houthi rebellion since 2017 and where civilians are paying a heavy price. “Civilians in Yemen are regularly victims of injustices from all sides of the conflict,” denounces Afrah Nasser, a Yemeni researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While the coalition is responsible for a naval and air blockade and has a sordid record of unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Houthi-held areas, (…) the record of abuses and crimes in the Houthi war continues to escalate, including arbitrary arrests , enforced disappearances and torture. »
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“The war in Yemen is not a football game where you can encourage one side over the other”the researcher protests.