Saudi King Salman has expressed “extreme irritation” with the UAE’s recent stances, especially on the Yemen war, the latest in a series of signs that a fissure in the Riyadh-Abu Dhabi alliance is widening.
The king has made the unusual comments about Saudi Arabia’s closest partner at his Mecca palace on August 11 in a conversation with fugitive ex-president of Yemen Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting three sources, including two Yemenis, as saying.
Cracks started to appear in the Saudi-UAE alliance last month, when the United Arab Emirates announced the pullout of most of its forces from the Yemen “quagmire” in a “face-saving” decision that deeply upset its Saudi allies.
The Emirati move has reportedly greatly upset Riyadh. According to reports, Saudi Arabia relied greatly on Emirati forces in advancing its war in Yemen, with Abu Dhabi maintaining a fragile network of mercenaries and tribal militia to fight for the coalition.
However, the Reuters’ report argues that the division will not be restricted to the Yemen crisis or bilateral relations; it rather “could undermine [US President Donald] Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ push against Tehran, damage Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and reverberate in other theaters of conflict.”
But Emirati officials seem serious about their decision, as they know the Yemen war is an “unwinnable” one, and that they seek to improve their international image and introduce the UAE as a “peacemaker,” the report said.
“The UAE wants to be seen as the small country that facilitates peace and stability rather than an appendage to a triumphant expansionist Saudi,” the report quoted a source familiar with the government’s thinking as saying.
With UAE troops out, command of the fractious Yemeni forces is passing to Saudi Arabia. People familiar with the matter said Saudi officers had taken charge at the two main Emirati bases on the Red Sea, at Mokha and Khokha.
Saudi Arabia and its allies started the war on the Yemeni nation in March 2015 to reinstall former president Hadi, who resigned from presidency and fled to Riyadh in January 2015 amid popular outcry over corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Houthi Ansarullah fighters then took over state matters to prevent the country from descending into chaos.