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Mohammed bin Zayed’s Dark Vision of the Middle East’s Future

Richard Clarke was in Abu Dhabi one morning in 2013 when his phone lit up. “You busy?” a familiar voice said. It was a rhetorical question. The caller was Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates and one of the most powerful men on Earth. “I’ll send a car,” he said, and hung up. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism czar, was working as a consultant for M.B.Z. (as he’s mostly known outside his country) and had gotten used to impromptu calls like this. M.B.Z. rarely explained what he had in mind. Once, he took Clarke for an unexpected helicopter flight deep into the desert of the Empty Quarter and then landed by an artificial pond, scattering a herd of wild gazelles. Not far away, a group of German engineers was standing around, working on an experimental solar-powered water-desalination plant.

This time, Clarke got in the back of the car with no idea where he was heading. As they drove through a remote warehouse district, the thought crossed his mind that he was being kidnapped. Then the driver pulled up outside a building where Clarke heard popping sounds. He went inside and saw a group of young women in military uniforms, firing pistols at targets. Seated not far away was M.B.Z., in his white tunic and ear-protection muffs, alongside his wife and an empty third chair reserved for Clarke. During a lull in the shooting, M.B.Z. introduced the women, who were all his daughters and nieces. “I’m starting a draft,” M.B.Z. said. “I want everyone in the country to feel like they’re responsible. A lot of them are fat and lazy.” To stimulate the draft, he said, he would begin with all the young people in his own family.

M.B.Z.’s draft was part of a grand nation-building effort at home and abroad, one that would require more soldiers and have repercussions for the entire Middle East. Since its founding in 1971, the United Arab Emirates — a federation of oil-rich sheikhdoms on the north Arabian coast — has mostly stayed out of the Arab world’s many conflicts. It became the region’s economic marvel, a desert Xanadu of gleaming skyscrapers, endless malls and marble-floored airports. But by 2013, M.B.Z. was deeply worried about the future. The Arab Spring uprisings had toppled several autocrats, and political Islamists were rising to fill the vacuum. The Muslim Brotherhood — the region’s foremost Islamic party, founded in 1928 — and its affiliates had won elections in Egypt and Tunisia, and jihadist militias were running rampant in Libya. In Syria, the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad was also falling into the hands of Islamist militias. ISIS was on the rise, and in less than a year would sweep across the Iraqi border and seize a territory the size of Britain.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2020 in Middle East, Reportages

 

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The divergent Saudi-UAE strategies in Yemen

A recent surge in fighting in southern Yemen is part of an overarching Saudi-UAE strategy to keep the Arab world’s most impoverished nation in a perpetual weak state in order to serve their own objectives, according to analysts.

The battles this month in the city of Aden between government forces loyal to Saudi Arabia-based President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) have added another layer of complexity to Yemen’s already multifaceted war.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/analysis-divergent-saudi-uae-strategies-yemen-190830121530210.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Exclusive: Gold worth billions smuggled out of Africa

Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East – a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond – a Reuters analysis has found.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gold-africa-smuggling-exclusive/exclusive-gold-worth-billions-smuggled-out-of-africa-idUSKCN1S00IT

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Bloated bodies in the Nile show Sudan protesters were right to fear the arrival of Saudi and UAE money

The Sudanese democracy demonstrators were the first to protest at Saudi Arabia’s interference in their revolution. We all knew that the Saudis and the Emiratis had been funnelling millions of dollars into the regime of Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and now chucked out of power by a Sisi-like military cabal. But it was the sit-in protesters who first thought up the slogan: “We do not want Saudi aid even if we have to eat beans and falafel!”

It was shouted, of course, along with the more familiar chants of ‘revolution of the people”.

Few noticed this little development – save, to give it credit, The Washington Post – but the dozens of waterlogged bodies being dragged from the Nile should focus our attention on the support which the Emiratis and especially the Saudis are now lavishing upon the pseudo-transitional military government in Sudan.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sudan-saudi-arabia-egypt-abdul-fattah-al-burhan-hemeti-dagolo-nile-a8952321.html

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Patrons of Peace and Conflict

Suakin sits along Sudan’s Red Sea coast, a small grouping of faded buildings and historical ruins containing a proud fishing community. The town is a coastal village and the main attraction is the ancient ruins—some dating back to the fifteenth century—as well as the outer shell of a British fort that persists as a symbol of Sudan’s colonial past. In its prime, Suakin was a key transit point for African Muslims on the pilgrimage to Mecca, but with the advent of air travel the town has fallen from prominence, an abandonment only made worse by the collapse of Sudan’s tourist industry. 

Yet in January 2018, Suakin was at the center of a rapid deterioration of diplomatic relations between Sudan and its northern neighbor Egypt, triggering talk of possible war between the two nations. In December 2017 Turkish President Recep Erdoğan visited Suakin ostensibly to inspect the large-scale restoration of the historical town financed by the Turkish government. Then a few weeks later, in January 2018, Erdoğan returned to Sudan to sign among many other agreements, a deal to hand over Suakin to Turkey altogether—just for tourism, both governments maintain—which Sudan’s neighbors have interpreted as an act of aggression. 

The situation in Suakin is emblematic of increasingly complicated geopolitical relations in Africa’s northeast corner. From Egypt to Tanzania, decades of political ambivalence around unsettled borders, access to the sea, and ambiguous agreements about the waters of the Nile are flaring up. Much of this tension is left over from Britain’s colonial history in the region, but some is entirely new, aggravated by simmering conflicts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. There are also centuries of connection between the various states as well as internal realignments that complicate the situation further.

https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/patrons-of-peace-and-conflict/
 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Africa, Middle East

 

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The Ahvaz terror attack in Iran may drag the US into a larger war

Iran has been hit by yet another terrorist attack. At least 29 people were killed in the southwestern city of Ahvaz when gunmen opened fire on a crowd watching a military parade on Iran’s equivalent of Memorial Day. But unlike previous terror attacks, this one may spark a much larger regional conflagration – involving not just regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also the United States. In fact, it may have been designed to trigger just that.

The terrorist attack, which was first claimed by an Arab separatist group with alleged connections to Saudi Arabia, the Ahvaz National Resistance, did not occur in a vacuum. Iran’s regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have increasingly taken their decades-long behind-the-scenes pressure on the US to bomb Iran into the open.

What used to be said in private is now increasingly declared in public. Moreover, these monarchies are no longer limiting themselves to pushing the US to take military action, but are announcing their own readiness to attack Iran.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/ahvaz-terror-attack-iran-may-drag-us-larger-war-1037509599

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Middle East

 

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As Saudi Arabia and the UAE struggle for control of Socotra, Yemen’s island paradise may just swap one occupation for another

Monsoon season has almost arrived on the Socotra archipelago.

Overnight on Thursday, the first storm of the year, Cyclone Sagar, began forming over the Gulf of Aden. As the winds picked up to 80kph (50mph) and the water began to churn, fishermen were warned not to take their boats out.

For the next two months, the Arabian Sea will be too dangerous to cross and the isolated Yemeni island will be almost completely cut off from the outside world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/socotra-yemen-civil-war-uae-saudi-arabia-occupation-military-emirates-a8360441.html

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Socotra is finally dragged into Yemen’s civil war, ripping apart the island’s way of life

Women aren’t often seen in public on the Yemeni island of Socotra; their voices certainly don’t carry through the streets.

But everything is changing on the island at the moment. “My blood, my soul, for you, Yemen,” around two dozen women shouted as they marched through the main town of Hadibo on Saturday, carrying Yemeni flags the size of bed sheets.

Since Socotra has become the focus of an unprecedented power struggle between Yemen’s government and its supposed ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the red, white and black of the mainland flag is no longer a given on the isolated Arabian Sea island. Emirati green and Socotran separatist blue flags also shimmer during counter-protests as Egyptian vultures coast on thermal currents overhead.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/socotra-yemen-civil-war-uae-miltary-base-island-life-emirates-a8342621.html

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Socotra island: The Unesco-protected ‘Jewel of Arabia’ vanishing amid Yemen’s civil war

Legend has it the otherworldly dragon’s blood tree first grew on the spot where two brothers, Darsa and Samha, fought to the death. In Arabic, it is known as dam al akhawain – “the blood of the two brothers”.

The unique tree, with its crimson resin and dense crown of prehistoric leaves, is a beloved symbol of the Arabian Sea island of Socotra and its parent country of Yemen.

But like the ancient Darsa and Samha, Yemen is a country of two halves once again at war with each other. The conflict places Socotra at the centre of a new power struggle between the weakened Yemeni government and the geopolitical ambitions of its ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/socotra-island-yemen-civil-war-uae-military-base-unesco-protected-indian-ocean-a8331946.html

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Middle East, Uncategorized

 

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Allegations that three Qataris were ‘tortured’ by UAE officials will put the UK at the centre of an inter-Arab squabble

The Metropolitan Police in London will in a few hours’ time find themselves involved in the Gulf crisis when UK lawyers for three prominent Qataris submit their evidence of alleged torture and illegal imprisonment for which they blame up to 10 senior officials of the United Arab Emirates – including a cabinet minister and a high-ranking security adviser.

Human Rights lawyer Rodney Dixon QC will hand the Met details of alleged beatings, torture and illegal imprisonment of the three Qataris, one of them close to the head of Qatar’s own State Security Service, under the terms of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act – which allows British police to investigate and arrest foreign nationals entering the UK if they are suspected of war crimes, torture or hostage-taking anywhere in the world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/metropolitan-police-torture-illegal-imprisonment-united-arab-emirates-qatar-saudi-arabia-a7941506.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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