Monday, April 10, 2017

The United Arab Emirates (UAE):

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security for more than two decades, and the alliance has expanded in recent years to address multiple regional threats. As the UAE has become increasingly capable of projecting force, it has in some cases acting independently or in concert primarily with its allies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman). The UAE’s ability to act in the region has benefitted from extensive U.S.-UAE defense cooperation. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at UAE military facilities, hosted there under a 1994 U.S.-UAE defense cooperation agreement (DCA) that remains in effect by mutual agreement. The UAE was the first Gulf state to order the most sophisticated missile defense system sold by the United States (the THAAD), demonstrating support for U.S. efforts to forge a coordinated missile defense network against Iran. The UAE also hosts other Western forces, including those of France.

As examples of its growing willingness and ability to project power, the UAE is militarily participating in the Saudi-led effort to counter the Iran-backed Zaidi Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and its forces, in partnership with U.S. special operations forces, are also combatting Al Qaeda’s affiliate there. It is also participating in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria, while at the same time supporting Syrian rebel groups in an attempt to oust President Bashar Al Assad. In recent years, UAE forces have been deployed to several bases in East African countries to train allied forces and facilitate the UAE’s regional operations. In 2011, the UAE joined the Saudi-led GCC intervention to help Bahrain suppress a major uprising by its Shiite majority, and the UAE joined U.S.-led airstrikes that helped oust Muammar Qadhafi of Libya. The UAE’s opposition to Muslim Brotherhood-linked regional organizations, a position shared by several other GCC states, has driven UAE interventions and policy toward Egypt, Libya, Syria, and the Palestinian territories, where Brotherhood-linked organizations operate, and stoked tensions with Qatar

Prior to the 2011 “Arab spring” uprisings, the UAE’s relatively open borders and economy have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East. In 2006, the government established a limited voting process for half of the 40 seats in its quasi-legislative body, the Federal National Council (FNC). The most recent such vote was completed on October 3, 2015, and resulted in the selection of a female as speaker of the FNC. However, the country remains under the control of a small circle of leaders who rely on traditional consensus-building.

The UAE is considered among the wealthiest countries in the world, in part because of the small population that requires services. The government has used its wealth to try to maintain popular support. Since the Arab Spring uprisings, the government apparently has become more wary of the potential for regional conflicts to affect domestic stability, and the government has sought to suppress the relatively small opposition consisting of both Islamist and secular dissenters. As part of an effort to cope with the effects of the significant fall in oil prices since mid-2014, the government instituted a major cabinet reshuffle in February 2016, creating new ministries mandated to formulate future economic and social strategies and attract the support of the country’s youth. At times when the UAE has received U.S. assistance, the aid—which has been in very small dollar amounts—has generally been provided to qualify the UAE for inclusion in training and other programs that benefit UAE security.

Very few policy changes are anticipated when UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan leaves the scene. He suffered an incapacitating stroke in January 2014, and his younger brother, Shaykh Mohammad bin Zayid, has been de-facto leader since.

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