In the wake of a rare Houthi attack inside the UAE that killed three people in Abu Dhabi, US officials are discussing tightening the security of the Gulf nation with their Emirate counterparts.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The UAE’s ambassador in the US said they discussed tightening the UAE’s defenses from missile and drone attacks.
According to Axios, Austin and bin Zayed also discussed steps to enhance “maritime security to stop weapons flows,” hinting at a tightening of the blockade on Yemen. But after over six years, the blockade has only hurt the starving civilian population of Yemen and has done nothing to stop Houthi weapon advancements.
The State Department announced Wednesday that US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking is headed to the Gulf region, where he will meet with UAE officials. Lenderking’s trip was previously planned, but the Houthi attack will certainly be discussed.
Meetings will also take place in Washington, where the UAE’s intelligence director Ali al-Shamsi has already arrived. He will meet with several US officials, including CIA Director William Burns.
The UAE wants the US to re-designate the Houthis as a “terrorist” organization, a last-minute Trump-era policy that was quickly reversed by President Biden. The designation could criminalize the delivery of aid to Houthi-controlled areas of north Yemen.
The UAE is part of the US-backed Saudi-led coalition that has been waging a brutal war on Yemen since 2015. It’s obvious that the Houthi attack was retaliation for Abu Dhabi’s role in the war against them.
The UAE likes to downplay its involvement in the coalition, but UAE support for a militant group, known as the Giants Brigade, has been a significant factor in the Saudi-backed government’s recent success on the battlefield against the Houthis in Maarib.
In response to the Abu Dhabi attack, the coalition pounded Yemen’s capital Sanaa with airstrikes. At least 20 were killed in airstrikes on residential areas of the capital city. Reports indicate most of those killed were civilians.