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Abu Dhabi: Why drone attacks in UAE could mark a dangerous turning point

In response, the UAE and Saudi Arabia responded by pummelling the Yemeni capital of Sana’a with airstrikes, killing a minimum of 12 individuals, in the deadliest bombardment in the town since 2019.

Aside from escalating violence in a area that has sought to show the web page on a decade of proxy wars, the trade of fireplace could additionally cloud a sequence of high-level talks between regional and worldwide foes. Negotiations between Iran and Western powers on the best way to revive the 2015 deal to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program have lately proven indicators of progress. And there are additionally indications that historic however troublesome discussions between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran had been starting to bear fruit.

But the unprecedented Houthi attacks in Abu Dhabi could throw a wrench into these talks.

And if the rebels make good on their promise to launch additional strikes, it could dent the UAE’s picture as a protected place to stay, work and do enterprise in a troubled area.

Here’s what to know concerning the disaster.

Why was the Houthi assault so vital?

In addition to being the primary lethal assault in the UAE in a few years, the drone attacks on Monday demonstrated the Houthis’ potential to launch long-range attacks. Yemen’s rebels continuously conduct cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor, however these had been comparatively quick distances in comparability with Abu Dhabi, and the overwhelming majority of the missiles and drones had been intercepted earlier than they hit their targets.

Oil costs spiked after the attacks, which spurred a flurry of worldwide condemnation from the US and different world leaders. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed requested the US to reclassify the Houthis as a international terrorist group — a label that was instituted in the ultimate days of the Trump administration earlier than being lifted by President Joe Biden.

The Houthis beforehand claimed to have performed strikes on the UAE, which it doesn’t share a border with. But Emirati authorities by no means acknowledged the alleged attacks, and lots of observers thought-about the claims to have been farfetched.

Now Yemen’s Houthis have delivered on a menace that they’ve for years made towards the UAE, a main coalition companion in a six-year Saudi-led army marketing campaign to crush the Iran-backed rebels.

The wreckage of buildings damaged in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes  in Sanaa, Yemen, on Tuesday.

In 2019, the UAE pulled most of its troops from Yemen, after privately deeming the battle unwinnable. The marketing campaign did not crush the rebels however exacted a big humanitarian toll, with hundreds of Yemenis lifeless and malnourishment and illness widespread.

More lately, nevertheless, the UAE has returned to the fray, backing Yemeni teams in flashpoints just like the oil-rich provinces of Shabwa and Marib and repelling Houthi fighters from the strategic desert city.

Now, analysts say the rebels are desperate to spark one other Emirati withdrawal.

“The intervention of the UAE-supported forces was a game-changer. This angered the Houthis,” stated Maged al-Madhaji, government director and co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. “The Houthis are trying to create some sort of balance by striking the image of stability and security in the Emirates.”

What’s at stake for the UAE?

The oil-rich nation has for many years managed to stave off the political turbulence occurring elsewhere in the area. Stability is likely one of the UAE’s main promoting factors — serving to to draw hundreds of thousands of expatriates and billions of {dollars} in international funding — however that picture could be shattered if the battle with the Houthis escalates.

The UAE depends closely on international employees, who make up the overwhelming majority of the nation’s workforce. Authorities intensively handle the nation’s popularity, and freedom of political expression is virtually non-existent. Defenders of these restrictions on expression argue that they are vital to keep up stability towards all odds in the conflict-ridden Middle East.

The Abu Dhabi skyline, pictured in 2020.

But for years, the UAE’s muscular international coverage — which noticed it intervene in Egypt, Libya, Syria and the horn of Africa, in addition to Yemen — imperiled that very stability. When tankers had been being focused by its regional arch-nemesis Iran in 2019, off the coast of the UAE, Abu Dhabi shortly modified tack.

Since then it has been on a diplomatic spree to heal years-old rifts. It has made a variety of overtures to Iran, together with sending a high-level delegation reportedly in October 2019 after which once more in late 2021. It’s additionally mended ties with Syria’s pariah president Bashar al-Assad, after backing armed teams that sought to overthrow him in that nation’s battle. The UAE’s management has repeatedly stated that it seeks to develop into a deescalating pressure in the area.

Yet Monday’s assault underscored a point that many observers have made, which is that turning the web page on a decade of blood-drenched proxy battle shall be neither clean nor instantaneous. All international locations in the area, not simply the UAE, can have a vested curiosity in a fast deescalation of Monday’s violence.

Was Iran concerned in the Houthi assault on the UAE?

We do not know. What we do know that the drones had been seemingly equipped by Iran, the principal supporter of the Houthis in their battle on the internationally-recognized authorities of Yemen. But it’s unclear if the Houthis’ backers in Tehran ordered the strike, or if the insurgent group all of the sudden went rogue.

It would not be the primary time Iran-aligned teams appeared to go their very own means. In November 2021, the pinnacle of Iran’s elite Quds pressure Esmail Qaani paid a go to to Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kadhimi, shortly after an attempt on the life of Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kadhimi by Iran-backed militias. Some observers noticed the go to as a bid to distance Iran from the actions of their militant allies.

Another cause to suspect that Houthis acted on their very own accord is that Iran has repeatedly stated that it needs to revive relations with its regional foes. Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi has acquired a minimum of two invites to go to the UAE, based on Iranian state media.

In their statements condemning the assault in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — uncharacteristically — steered away from blaming the insurgent group’s backers in Tehran. Iran has not but publicly commented on the assault.

Yet, as ever, Iran’s management is difficult to learn. A Lebanese information community, Al Mayadeen, reported that Raisi met with the pinnacle of Sana’a’s negotiation crew in Tehran on Monday, the day of the assault. Some observers seen that as an admission of accountability in the Abu Dhabi assault.

What does this imply for the Iran nuclear talks?

The violence on Monday has the potential to derail the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, in addition to parallel talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran seen as essential to the success of a potential second model of the 2015 deal.

If Iran is believed to be behind the Monday assault in Abu Dhabi — in the identical means that they had been broadly accused of being chargeable for the 2019 attacks on ARAMCO oil refineries (Iran denied the allegations) — then confidence-building measures could collapse and it might be troublesome to see how the negotiations could proceed.

If, however, Iran brings the Houthis to heel, as an overture to its regional foes, then Monday’s violence might blow over and the negotiations could keep it up, probably unabated.

CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report from Abu Dhabi.

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