UAE’s Military Buildup Faces New Scrutiny Amid Yemen Torture Scandal

UAE Has Regional Ambitions and a Sketchy Human Rights Record

As with the other Gulf Arab states, the United Arab Emirates have been investing heavily in buying advanced US weaponry for their military. They also have shown a growing regional ambition, participating in the Yemen War, and securing military base deals in northeastern Africa.

This policy is facing new scrutiny today, however, after last week’s Associated Press report revealed that UAE troops were torturing detainees at secret prisons in Yemen, before turning the detainees over to the United States for interrogation.

Blanket denials aside, this puts the UAE in a particularly awkward position, as the Yemen War they are so deeply involved in was already a major humanitarian calamity, but the focus on that had mostly been on Saudi Arabia. This time, Emirati troops are smack in the middle of the torture scandal.

This makes their human rights record a very public concern, and one that’s going to loom large as they continue to try to negotiate with nations within their sphere of influence for military hosting permission. Needless to say, the torture is likely to make them a less welcome partner for any country except those with their own human rights problems.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.