Yemen’s Houthi fighters claimed three rare attacks on the United Arab Emirates in two weeks, an escalation in a conflict that’s stoking tensions in the oil-exporting Gulf region. The assaults were the UAE’s first brush with major blowback from its involvement in the nearly seven-year war in Yemen. The Houthis have vowed more attacks to come, potentially threatening the UAE’s commercial center of Dubai.
The Houthis appear to be pressuring the UAE to cut back its involvement in the Yemen war. Concerned about spreading Iranian influence, the UAE and Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015, after the Iran-backed Houthis took the capital and dislodged the internationally recognized government. The UAE withdrew most of its forces from Yemen in 2019, while it has kept some and maintained support and training for Yemeni proxy forces, notably those known as the Giants Brigades. The UAE also has ties to the Southern Transitional Council, a separatist group fighting the Houthis. In the weeks before the attacks on the UAE, the Giants Brigades, along with Saudi-backed forces, scored victories against the Houthis, recapturing parts of the energy-rich Shabwa province and making gains in the city of Marib, which the Houthis aimed to take.