Tag Archives: Somalia

UAE-Saudi Game of Bases: from South Arabia to Horn of Africa with Temporary Love and Money….

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“Somali President Mohammed Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo request for mediation Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to persuade not to complete the establishment of a military base in “Somaliland”……..”

“Somaliland signs agreement allowing the United Arab Emirates to set up a military base in Berbera with a 25-year lease…”

An interesting and unexpected development in the Middle East in recent months. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is getting deeply into the business of foreign military bases. In one sense it has been in it for many years now. From early on, the UAE has had military bases on its territory for various counties: the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, as well as Canada (canceled after a commercial dispute). All the while vigorously criticizing foreign (non-Western) bases in Iraq and Syria. Not bad for a country of a little more than 1 million citizens (plus about 6 million foreign residents).

Now the UAE, ostensibly a part-time and wary ally of Saudi Arabia, is getting into the dubious business of establishing foreign bases of its own. Basically the UAE are (for now) the strongest foreign power in the Aden area of South Yemen, having easily outsmarted and elbowed out the Saudi Wahhabis. The Saudis are closer allies to the deposed president Hadi and his corrupt old partners in misruling Yemen (the Islah, the local Muslim Brotherhood). The UAE rulers hate nothing more than the Muslim Brotherhood.

The main Saudi problem in Yemen is that they share a long border with that country. They occasionally get tempted to test these borders. Hence their fear of any perceived foreign (non-Western) influence over Yemen, be it real or imagined. The war they have been waging on Yemen for more than two years often comes back to haunt them in the form of Yemeni retaliatory attacks on their border towns and cities. As well as Yemeni rockets, reportedly local versions of Iranian and maybe Russian missiles.The rockets are a new introduction into the war, and the Yemenis in the capital Sanaa have promised more and more potent ones to come if the Saudis do not desist.

So the Saudis are stuck in a destructive but futile genocidal bombing campaign (with strong and indispensable American and British help), as well as a worrying border war. They are cornered, while the Emiratis expand their influence in South Yemen and now in the Horn of Africa. The Emiratis can better afford it than the Saudis who need to support and subsidize about 16 million citizens (there are also about 10 million foreign residents, a few million of them reportedly illegal).

To the Horn of Africa. That area seems like a favorite place for many powers to establish military bases in recent years. The Russians (Soviets) had a large base at Berbera for years under the Marxist Siad Barre military regime of Somalia. Eritrea and Djibouti have both had bases or presences of the French, Israelis, Iranians and others (including the famous pirates). Natural for an impoverished region. Now the UAE is establishing bases in Somaliland, formerly part of Somalia, which apparently still considers it part of its sphere. To the extent that Somalia can have a sphere. There have been earlier reports of a UAE base in Eritrea as well. There have been reports of a potential UAE presence in Libya as well, but that would be a foolish undertaking.

It is not clear what is the purpose of all these foreign bases and presences by a small country like the UAE. Only Oman among GCC states has had an extensive foreign presence until the 19th century, mainly in East Africa (including Zanzibar).

Oddly the Saudis don’t seem interested in foreign bases, except in Bahrain. But that is a historic cultural thing: Saudis, especially the elite Najdis of Central Arabia, were historically a landlubber people never known as sea-going people, unlike others like the Emirates (or Oman and Kuwait).

There is more. The UAE often splits from the Saudis on Yemen. The two alleged allies support different outlooks for Yemen, but the UAE can afford it financially although they have limited human resources and need local groups as allies. Hence the Hirak Movement which wants South Yemen (capital Aden) to regain the independence it lost in 1990.

My educated guess is that the UAE has the upper hand over the Saudis in that southern part of Yemen. But they need to reckon with three groups that have been strengthened by the destructive Saudi-led air war on Northern Yemen: the Southern Secessionists, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Islamic State (ISIS). These three groups have gained strength as the Saudis bombed their main enemies in Yemen, the Houthis.

In any case, in the end neither of these Arab allies can last in Yemen. It is already bleeding them, and will kill off many of their soldiers before they realize they have to leave. And they will leave: it has been the story of Yemen since the days of the ancient Persian and Roman empires. The rugged tribal country wears them down, and the aspiring conquerors are forced to give up and leave. A hostile foreign power cannot control Yemen, it has been the case since the days of the rule of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba.

More on this later, stay tuned.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Unified Arab Army of Pakistanis, Sudanese, Egyptians, and Americans………

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There was excitement in Sharm El Shaikh, the former Israeli resort that Egypt inherited (actually regained) after the Camp David accords. The Arab absolute kings, presidents for life, kitchen-hardened field marshals, and other assorted despots gathered to bless the new violent assault on Yemen.

One could probably hear some of their minds whirring, the mental cash registers ringing, calculating: how much money can we get out of these absolute tribal rulers of these statelets or half-states as Al Sisi and his advisers called them, called us, on tape.
Quite a coalition of the eagerly willing for a price in saudi and Emirati and Qatari money:

  • Sudan whose dictator is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, mass murder, and other violations.
  • Somalia which has no government except on paper.
  • Military junta-ruled Egypt, in an economic bind and willing to convert to any faith, including Wahhabism, for a price.
  • Perennial mercenary nuclear state of Pakistan, always happy and willing to supply mercenaries, soldiers, and interrogators to several Persian Gulf states for a price.
  • Humorless Jordan, a favorite source of mercenaries: interrogators, torturers, and other assorted crowd control specialists.
  • Others, including Qatar and the UAE (Emirates) whose economies rely on the almost 90% of their populations that are temporary expatriate laborers.

Quite a coalition of the willing to pay and the eager to be paid. Then there is the Obama administration, of the early perhaps premature Nobel Peace Prize, which everybody in the Middle East either suspects or knows planned the short-term strategy for the ongoing savage bombing of Yemen. Unless they think the Egyptians and Saudis and Qataris can organize and choreograph such a campaign. Which nobody in their right mind believes.

A unified Arab force indeed………

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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From Yemen to Somalia: Failed Arab States and the Sectarian Tribal Narrative…….

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“The capital of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation, has new masters. Anti-American Shiite rebels man checkpoints and roam the streets in pickups mounted with anti-aircraft guns. The fighters control almost all state buildings, from the airport and the central bank to the Defense Ministry. Only a few police officers and soldiers are left on the streets……….”

This title of “Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation” is debatable. The Arab world includes other candidates for this honor that are also members of the Arab League: Somalia, Mauretania, Sudan, Djibouti, the Comoros. So, there are several candidates for this honorary title. And if the unrest and war and mayhem continue to spread, several more Arab states may also join the competition. Libya, liberated by NATO and Bernard-Henri Levy and John McCain in 2011, may be well on its own merry way toward that list.
This piece looks like it could have been edited by Saudi and UAE censors before its final version was approved. I like the part about “Anti-American Shiite rebels“: a cute but useful touchThey tend to use the “sectarian” angle whenever they can, these Persian Gulf princes and potentates. I am not sure the Houthis actually think of imitating Hezbollah, they have their own very complex Yemeni issues to deal with. The sectarian narrative is not as powerful or clear-cut in Yemen as it is in Lebanon and Iraq and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, for example. It is complicated by tribal and regional issues. And they don’t have the Israeli military on their border as a further distraction.
But I can see the temptation, at least from a Western point of view, to simply declare them the “new Hezbollah”. One size fits all: it is simpler that way.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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