Bridging the Gap(s)? (Updated 9/1)

A United Arab Emirates Air Force pilot performs pre-flight checks in a Mirage 2000-9 during Red Flag 13-2, Jan. 22, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The UAE Air Force Mirage 2000-9 will participate in Red Flag 13-2 from Jan. 21 through Feb. 1, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
UAE pilot, US-UAE joint exercises, 2012: Air Combat Command

The anti-Houthi coalition has witnessed layers of recriminations over the past couple of weeks:

  • the STC accusing the UN-recognized Hadi government as corrupt and incompetent, thereby justifying the STC’s takeover in the South
  • the Hadi government accusing the STC and the UAE of acting in concert to create a fait accompli of Southern secession
  • Emirati authorities making a show of appearing to reign in the STC in cooperation with Saudi mediation efforts even as Emirati commentators lodge implicit and overt accusations of Muslim Brotherhood influence within the Hadi government
  •  Saudi commentators and surrogates variously trying to condemn the STC “coup,” concede some failings within the Hadi government, gently reminding UAE commentators not to go too far in insulting the Hadi government, and occasionally voicing a “plague on both houses” exasperation with the entire situation in Yemen

Despite recent efforts to restore a surface-level image of control and cooperation to the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy (backed by Hadi-government advances against STC positions), online commentary was again thrown into turmoil by the Hadi government accusing the UAE of launching airstrikes against its positions. In response, the UAE admitted to launching strikes but averred that it had only taken action in self-defense against “terrorist organizations.”

Yemeni Minister of Information M’amar al-Eriyani had much to say about Emirati actions:

Air bombardments… by UAE aircraft on government forces [operating] in the temporary capital Aden and its environs… which lead to the death of 40 members of the national army and civilians, as well as 70 wounded… are a dangerous development in targeting [the holder of] constitutional legitimacy, and efforts to [rebuild the] Yemeni state.  

We condemn this attack, which contradicts the objectives of the Coalition… and represents an attack on an independent and sovereign state under UN law… we affirm our right to take all political, diplomatic and legal measures in this regard.

The treacherous attack shows UAE’s lack of acceptance of the government’s efforts to restore its institutions and the failure of the STC-led sabotage project in… Aden and the southern governorates, and its relentless pursuit to divide Yemen through the actions of a regional militia…

This unjustified… attack, which came after a number of air strikes on the national army that the UAE claimed took place by mistake… [has placed] future relations between the [Yemen and the UAE] and their peoples in utmost danger…

We reaffirm our confidence in the Kingdom, from whom we have seen nothing but the highest morals, fraternal dealings, and neighborly assistance… We saw no special… objectives [from KSA] in Yemen, except to help the government restore the state and end the Iranian Houthi threat, in addition to [the Kingdom’s humanitarian, economic, and development role towards the Yemeni people.

Emirati commentators have been somewhat more quiet but have occasionally said the quiet part out loud in accusing the Hadi government of being influenced by or at least covering for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, while highlighting the importance of fighting Islamist party Al-Islah.

The stronghold of the new generation of al-Qaeda is under the supervision of Yemen’s al-Islah party.

Dhahi Khalfan, former Dubai chief of Police

These accusations in turn seemed to find some traction among Saudi commentators convinced that the Kingdom’s leadership must know what is going on and increasingly wishing “a plague on both houses” for Yemen’s factions -– even if they remain wary of any Emirati plans to press for Southern separatism:

Accusing the UAE of bombing the legitimate [government] forces is an explicit accusation against the Arab coalition. Drone are monitoring, so how can can Emirati fighter take off from a Saudi base without Saudi knowing?! The Brotherhood in the legitimate [government] is playing with fire and implementing a media plan to demolish the Coalition.

As a reminder, the coalition had previously bombarded forces acting under the cover of the legitimate [government] in 2016 and in 2017 when these forces were moving without coordinating with the coalition. If the forces bombed today were bombed by fighter jets and not artillery or mortar shelling, then they [must have] either crossed predetermined red lines or else did not coordinate their movements with the coalition.

Chaos in the statements of the legitimate government and in Emirati media goes against the Saudi-UAE joint statement as well as the Kingdom’s call for Yemenis to resolve their internal problems rather than exporting them abroad! The problem is Yemeni, 100%. The use of extremists is a red line and the imposition of separation as a fait accompli is a red line!

Mishaal Khalidi, Saudi commentator

Perhaps the most prominent thing that we have learned recently that the delay in a Decisive resolution for #Yemen is caused by the Yemenis themselves, who have opted to share the spoils and abandon the ramparts before eliminating the Houthi, all because of their particular interests. Today, the King Abdulaziz Brigade could be fighting in Saada and the Yemenis would be fighting in Aden and Abyan and asking what’s taking so long!

Bin Habas, anonymous account

Elsewhere, Saudi commentators once active on this topic have moved on to other topics, relying on statements such as one from FM Anwar Gargash to both downplay any differences of opinion and promote the role of the Kingdom as the ultimate arbiter of the situation in an upcoming talk in Jeddah.

The UAE statement against terrorism and the protection of coalition forces is firm. The most important thing is the clear conviction that dialogue and communication between the government and the STC through the Saudi initiative is the way out of the crisis.

Anwar Gargash, UAE Foreign Minister

With regards to the UAE, news aggregator and commentator @KSA24 tried to make it clear that his comments about those tweeting out of line were restricted specifically to Dhahi Khalfan, backing away from earlier flare-ups that took online personalities as potentially representing other, more powerful interests.

If an Emirati comes up to me, God forbid, and curses Saudi Arabia, do you think the response would be to curse the whole UAE…??

Anyways, I was talking about Dahi Khalfan – whoever believes that Dahi represents the UAE and that his insults are insults from the whole UAE is [a few bricks short of a bundle]

KSA24, news aggregator and commentator

Others continued joined in on efforts to suggest that the Hadi government bore some of the blame for the current situation, alongside the STC:

The popular and media pile-on since the coup carried out by the STC has greatly affected the legitimate government of Yemen, which has in turn made mistakes that are reflected on the ground… Wisdom was absent, haste prevailed, and minds were closed and so the crisis worsened and worsened.

Mansour al-Khamis, Saudi blogger

The prevailing sense from Saudi commentators and official statements alike now seems to be “I don’t care who started it, but I’m going to end it.” Strife will be blamed on the perfidy of Yemeni factions and even the very culture of Yemen itself, topline coordination between the UAE and KSA will be preserved (or at least the appearance of it), and the Jeddah conference will be where everything is settled – at least for now.

Supporting the STC and separation is wrong
Accusing the legitimate government of being Muslim Brotherhood is wrong
Insulting the legitimate president of Yemen is wrong

Saudi Arabia responded to these errors by:

Supporting the legitimate government
Supporting the legitimate president
Emphasizing the unity of Yemen

Mansour al-Khamis, Saudi blogger

Update (9/1/2019) – UAE Statements on Social Media

In a development possibly related to the Twitter spats noted on this site, Dubai ruler and UAE Prime Minister Muhammad bin Rashed’s “season’s greetings” for the start of the new year (Hijri calendar) included a comment about those “fooling around on social media”:

Secondly, fooling around on social media is undermining achievements that thousands of teams have worked hard to build. The reputation of the UAE is not the common property of anyone who wants to increase their number of followers. We have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for managing our foreign accounts, speaking on our behalf and expressing our state’s foreign policy positions . One of its main tasks is to preserve the 48 years of credibility and that sterling reputation that the UAE has built up among the countries and peoples of the world. We will not allow a group of Twitter users to tamper with the legacy of Zayed, which he built for us through [demonstrated[ credibility as well as love and respect for peoples. The image of the UAE and Emiratis must remain as bright as Zayed intended it to be.

– Muhammad bin Rashed, UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai

These thoughts were echoed by UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed on Twitter (not to be confused with Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs):

Tweeting is for the nation
To increase it, not diminish it
To build it up, not and destroy what was built
Tweeting for the nation is a noble task
We carry out with high morals
And with a mentality that reflects our civilized people
With a logic that addresses minds and opens hearts …
Thank you Mohammed bin Rashid

– Abdullah bin Zayed

The announcements have likewise found some traction with Saudi users:

I said it before, Dhahi Khalfan does not represent the UAE, and whoever wants the official position [of the government] should follow officials and not retired officials.

This is why my criticisms were to him [personally] since he insulted the Coalition as well as the UAE… some accused me of attacking the UAE simply because I criticized Dhahi Khalfan… now what will these friends of Dhahi say after this statement from Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashed?

– Mansour al-Khamis, Saudi blogger

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