Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis once called the United Arab Emirates “Little Sparta” when he was the US CENTCOM Commander. Mattis made this statement because the Emirates had shown over and over again that they are a powerful little force on the battlefield.
The UAE has been a vital ally of the United States since the early 1990s, and of course, to be an ally, in this case, means you are a proxy force of the United States in the Middle East and Africa, that’s what makes the UAE “vital” to America’s never-ending war on “terrorism.” Little Sparta first showed their worth in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and then later they assisted in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and became a leading force in the Coalition against ISIS.
The Emirates have consistently stated that they are “fighting for a moderate Islam” as the Emirates believe it is crucial to their survival and they have pledged to combat the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Queda, the Taliban and ISIS abroad before these groups threaten the security of the UAE. The UAE has shown that not only are the overflowing in national wealth from their oil reserves, but they are showing that they can be a reliable proxy force of the United States.
From 2013 to 2017 the UAE was the fourth largest buyer of weapons in the world with a defense budget that has recently exploded to well over 22 billion. To put that into perspective India which is a nuclear superpower has a defense budget of 52 billion. The UAE has grown their air force to be one of the most powerful in the Middle East, and they have an effective special forces team that has been trained by the U.S. Military.
The UAE also built the Assab Military Base in Eritrea, and they have used this base as a launchpad for their operations in Yemen. Human Rights Watch reported in 2017 that the UAE was committing war crimes in Yemen by kidnapping young men and boys throughout Yemen and subjecting them to brutal torture and interrogations. As of this report, there are over 2000 missing young men and boys who were reportedly taken from their homes by UAE soldiers known as Security Belt Forces.
The torture includes electric shock, forced nudity, sexual harassment, beatings with batons, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and threats to their families. The UAE is operating on intelligence provided by the United States. According to Human Rights Watch’s report these Security Belt Forces would detain any male inside the home even if their target isn’t inside the residence and transport them to secret UAE prisons throughout Southern Yemen.
Last year Buzzfeed reported along with other media outlets that the UAE hired American mercenaries and paid them 1.5 million dollars a month to carry out assassinations of Imams and political figures of the Al-Islah party which the UAE accuses of being an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. There were over 25 assassinations in Yemen of figures aligned with the Al-Islah party. Abraham Golan told Buzzfeed news that his military contract firm Spear Operations Group started assassinating clerics and politicians in Yemen towards the end of 2015.
Last week reports surfaced that the UAE was arming Abu al-Abbas who is on the United States terrorist watch list and last year the U.S. imposed sanctions on him for being what they called a “prominent military instructor” for al-Queda. Abu al-Abbas is a warlord and has over 2,000 militants under his control- he is unquestionably an important ally of the UAE in Yemen. Abu al-Abbas and his forces consolidated with the UAE and their forces, but they only take orders from Abu al-Abbas. The Department of Defense has indicated that they are aware of the situation and are seeking additional information according to Commander Rebecca Rebarich a spokeswoman for the DoD.