The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven principalities or “emirates.” Its population is assessed at nearly 10 million, but about 90% of the population are expatriates from within and outside the region who work in its open economy. The UAE is a significant U.S. security partner that hosts about 3,500 U.S. military personnel at UAE military facilities, buys sophisticated U.S. military equipment, including missile defenses and combat aircraft, and supports U.S. policy toward Iran. The UAE’s August 2020 agreement to normalize relations with Israel might further consolidate the U.S.-UAE relationship and help both the United States and Israel counter Iran.
UAE policy will likely not change after UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan, who has been largely incapacitated since January 2014, passes from the scene; he is almost certain to be succeeded by his younger brother and de-facto UAE leader Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan. With ample financial resources and a U.S.-armed and advised military, the UAE has been asserting itself in the region, including militarily. In part to counter Iran, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia in a military effort to pressure the Iran-backed Zaidi Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, a campaign that has produced significant numbers of civilian casualties and criticism of the UAE. That criticism, coupled with UAE concerns that U.S.-Iran tensions could embroil the UAE in war with Iran, might account for an apparent UAE shift toward more engagement with Iran and a decision to remove most of the UAE’s ground forces from the Yemen conflict.
UAE forces continue to support pro-UAE factions in southern Yemen and, alongside U.S. special operations forces, continue to combat Al Qaeda’s affiliate there (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP). The UAE’s involvement in Yemen, and U.S. sales of weapons the UAE is using there, have been the subject of congressional oversight hearings and some legislation. A January 20, 2021, deal signed with the UAE to allow the country to procure up to 50 F-35s and 18 Reaper Drones was placed under review by the Biden Administration, although Administration officials said in April 2021 that they plan to proceed with the sale.T
he UAE leadership’s evaluation of Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations as regional and domestic threats is a significant factor in UAE policy. The UAE’s stance on those groups has contributed to a major rift with Qatar, another member of the Gulf Cooperation Council alliance Read the full description