Mansoor was not the only victim named by HRW. He was arrested for allegedly publishing “False information that harms national unity.” Nasser bin‐Ghaith is serving ten years for criticizing the UAE and Egyptian governments. In a case which received international attention British academic Matthew Hedges was arrested, convicted on dubious espionage charges, and then, under foreign pressure, released.
Equally serious is the UAE’s aggressive foreign policy, highlighted by multiple war crimes in Yemen. The Emirates has been called “Little Sparta,” but in truth that is no compliment. Sparta was a totalitarian military dictatorship which brutally ruled over the subject Helot population.
UAE promoted bloody civil war in both Syria, where Abu Dhabi funded radical Islamist forces, and Libya. The Emirates plotted with Riyadh to isolate and then invade Qatar, apparently stepping back from the military brink only because of U.S. pressure and Turkish deployment of troops. Alas, warned Jason Pack of the group Libya‐Analysis: “Despite being hailed as a ‘peace deal,’ the UAE‐Israel agreement will more likely prolong ongoing regional wars. It will intensify conflict in those contested zones of the Middle East where the two blocs back rival actors—primarily Yemen, Libya, and Syria.”
Worst has been the Emirati and Saudi aggression against Yemen. The war was originally initiated to put pliant puppet President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi back in office after he was ousted in one of endless rounds of domestic political unrest that has characterized Yemen’s six‐decade existence. However, over the last couple years Abu Dhabi began backing separatists against Hadi, threatening to split a country that originally began as two warring nations. Suspicion is widespread that Abu Dhabi hopes to grab effective control of ports and other commercial facilities.
The result has been humanitarian carnage in what already was one of the world’s poorest nations. Although the Yemeni Houthis have committed their share of war crimes, the vast majority of abuses were caused by the coalition. Indeed, the bombing campaign, backed by the U.S., often appeared to target civilians.
A UN Group of Experts’ report from 2018 concluded: “Coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties. In the past three years, such air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.” Also wrecked was the country’s commercial infrastructure.
Moreover, UAE incarcerated and abused Yemeni opponents. Reported the experts’ panel in 2018: “The Group has reasonable grounds to believe that the Governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations, including enforced disappearance. As most of these violations appear to be conflict related, they may amount to the following war crimes: rape, degrading and cruel treatment, torture and outrages upon personal dignity.”
Around the same time Amnesty International cited a UAE secret prison in supposedly “liberated” territory: The Emiratis practiced “detention at gunpoint, torture with electric shocks, waterboarding, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, squalid conditions, inadequate food and water.”
Although the obviously embarrassed State Department could only bring itself to cite “allegations” of misconduct, its indictment was sharp: “The United Nations, human rights groups, and others alleged UAE military operations as part of the Saudi‐led Coalition in Yemen killed civilians, damaged civilian infrastructure, and obstructed delivery of humanitarian aid. Human rights groups alleged UAE‐backed security forces in Yemen committed torture, sexual assault, and mistreatment against detainees.”
The Emirates also directly undermines American security interests. Shortly after the “splendid little war” went bad, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh turned to al‐Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long viewed as the terrorist group’s most effective national offshoot. Reported the Wall Street Journal, this put the coalition “on the same side as one of the world’s most notorious extremist groups.” In contrast, Yemeni’s Houthi movement had been a determined opponent of AQAP. Two years later Associated Press reported that: “al‐Qaeda has emerged as a de facto ally of the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.”
The coalition even transferred U.S.-provided weapons to AQAP and other radical groups. According to Amnesty International: “The UAE for instance, even though it stated it had withdrawn from Yemen in October 2019, has been actively training, funding and arming different armed groups since mid‐ to late 2015, supporting as such the proliferation of unaccountable militias.”
Despite Abu Dhabi’s atrocious human rights record, regularizing relations with Israel should be a major positive. However, the Financial Times quoted an unnamed Arab official who observed that the deal could give UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed “a lot in terms of cooperation with Israel and he gets to be back in the good books of the Trump administration. It might give him a free pass on certain things in the future.” That would negate any benefits from the deal.
The Emiratis, no less than the Saudis, put U.S. interests last. The UAE is fully prepared to drag Americans into another endless war to advance its ends. The Trump administration should remember its promise to put the U.S. first and focus on serving the American people rather than another group of corrupt Mideast kleptocrats.