British MP warns on 'worrying escalation' behind Houthi UAE attacks

David Jones outlines concerns and suggests British military could be used to support US deployments

David Jones MP. Photo: UK Parliament
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Western powers need to unite and take a more “hard-headed approach” to Iran’s involvement in Yemen, the head of Britain’s Gulf parliamentary group said as he expressed concern about Yemeni Houthi rebel aggression against the UAE.

“It is worrying that quite clearly the Houthis, with Iran’s help, have these sophisticated ballistic missiles and drones, which is an escalation," David Jones told The National.

"They're hitting civilian targets and have threatened to hit corporate headquarters in Dubai. But the Emirati forces seem to be quite capable of protecting the civilian interests in the UAE.”

With the significant scale of the Iran-backed Houthi missile attacks on the UAE, Mr Jones suggested that the UK’s military assets such as its aircraft carrier should join US forces in the region.

“In Iran we have a very dangerous rogue state, and the western powers need to adopt a far more-hard headed approach to Tehran,” he said.

Mr Jones wants a British military force to be ready to intervene in Yemen if the political and humanitarian crisis there intensifies.

He added that there was “no doubt” that the Iranian regime was using the Houthis as proxies in its battle against the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

He also raised concerns that Tehran was “weeks away” from establishing weapons grade uranium to build a nuclear weapon that would destabilise the region.

“Iran has a very repressive regime and they are in the business of exporting terror,” said Mr Jones, a former secretary of state for Wales.

“So we need a much stronger and more united western position, which we didn't have when President [Donald] Trump was there.”

The Conservative MP, who will be leading the UAE All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to the Expo 2020 Dubai next week, said while he was concerned by the recent attacks on the Emirates, air defences showed the country was protected.

He also raised concerns that the Houthis were indoctrinating child soldiers with anti-Israeli, Saudi and UAE “hate messages”.

Such practices helped to prolong the eight-year civil war where 377,000 have been killed and five million people endure famine, he said.

With its naval base in Bahrain, military advisers across the Gulf, and RAF, Royal Navy and army hardware in Oman, the UK was ideally placed to unilaterally intervene in Yemen if required, he said.

“The government would not want to charge in, so it would have to be a very extreme emergency where military intervention rather than aid could be justified,” said Mr Jones speaking to The National at his House of Commons office.

“But the point is Britain is an important military player in the region and becoming increasingly more important and it certainly has the military assets required.”

Mr Jones said that during the UAE visit the MPs group hoped to discuss Yemen with Dr Anwar Gargash, who is diplomatic adviser to President Sheikh Khalifa and a former minister of state for foreign affairs.

“The escalation of the conflict in Yemen is a worry and we'll want to ask the Emiratis how they see a resolution to it," Mr Jones said.

"So far as the British embassy is concerned, we'll have meetings with them as we want to know what more the UK can do.”

There are also strong indications that a free trade agreement might be signed between Britain and the Gulf Co-operation Council later this year, he said.

“A big prize would be a free trade agreement with the GCC, and I very much hope that negotiations can be concluded very soon," he said.

"The UAE is one of our biggest export markets and there is a growing mutual interest in each other's countries. I can actually see that expanding exponentially once we got an free trade agreement in place.”

Mr Jones said that the UAE APPG would continue to foster relations with the UAE especially given that Dubai is home to 120,000 British passport holders.

“We've got sort of human capital invested as well as financial capital, so it's a very important relationship to us,” he said.

Updated: February 02, 2022, 3:29 PM