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UAE faces growing resentment in southern Yemen

The United Arab Emirates is cutting back its forces in Yemen for a variety of reasons, though not exiting entirely, leaving Saudi Arabia to fill in at some strategic sites such as Aden and Perim Island to secure the Bab el-Mandeb Strait’s lucrative shipping lanes.
Newly recruited troops of the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council are seen on a vehicle during their graduation in Aden, Yemen July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman - RC1A52E65510

There are many possible explanations for the United Arab Emirates’ decision to substantially reduce its military presence in southern Yemen, though one stands out: the Emiratis’ rising unpopularity in an increasingly unpopular war.

The recent drawdown is supposedly part of a “strategic redeployment” of Emirati forces to the Persian Gulf as tensions there have grown between Iran and the United States. The UAE insists its troop reductions were possible as a natural consequence of its triumphs over al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the rebel Houthis. (The Houthis are widely accepted as being backed by Iran, a bitter rival of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, though the Houthis deny any affiliation.)

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