An assertive UAE serves the whole region

The increasing role this country plays is good for the stability of the Middle East

Foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan addresses a news conference about the UAE's involvement in Yemen. Christopher Pike / The National
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Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed's message is loud and clear: the UAE will take all necessary measures to ensure the political stability of Yemen. As The National reported yesterday, the foreign minister said after meeting his Yemeni counterpart, Dr Riyad Yassin, that the country is determined to end the crisis quickly by any means, even if that involves deploying boots on the ground.

The UAE is wholly justified in being assertive in dealing with those who deliberately undermine the peace and stability of the region. But one should not mistake this assertiveness for aggression. The country only agreed to participate in the military operation in Yemen when all possible political solutions were exhausted. Similarly, it will only take ground action if necessary.

The UAE is a peaceful country and has been since it was established in 1971. It’s clear from Sheikh Abdullah’s statement that the UAE would prefer to have a constructive relationship with Tehran. However, it cannot turn a blind eye to Iran’s problematic regional policies. Even now, as Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group is being finalised, Iran continues to undermine regional security by meddling in the affairs of other states – including both fomenting and then taking advantage of political and economic instability in countries such as Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. To prevent Tehran from spreading its influence and control, the UAE is justified in being proactive in its response.

In stark contrast to Iran, the UAE has chosen to play a leading role in supporting the development of the region, politically as well as economically. In Yemen, the Emirates and the rest of the GCC facilitated a national dialogue to find a peaceful transition from the autocratic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. It has supported Egypt as it struggled for stability after the 2011 revolution. The UAE is in the front lines fighting ISIL and other extremist groups that are an anathema to the peace, stability and tolerance it has fostered at home. When it comes to helping less-fortunate countries, the UAE donates more per capita than any other country and encourages sustainable development, as well as education and health initiatives. These are values we seek to uphold against those who peddle aggression and chaos for their own cynical ends. This is the context into which the UAE’s assertiveness on Yemen should be seen. It is in the interest of the whole region.