Dr. Seyed Hadi Borhani, speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, stated that at the beginning of the Saudi-led war in Yemen, different countries sided with the Saudis, noting that gradually, as the war eroded, it became clear that the coalition could not end it with lightning strikes, and that they have entered a round of damage and casualties, and most countries withdrew formally and openly, or informally.
Stating that the UAE and Saudi Arabia were the two major countries that remained in the war due to direct interests, he referred to the conflict between the government of “Mansour Hadi” and the Southern Transitional Council and added: During the past two or three years, forces who worked with those two countries suffered disagreements, Saudi Arabia supported a group led by Mansour Hadi and the UAE supported the Southern Transitional Council, and Saudi-UAE-backed forces clashed on the battlefield.
Referring to the attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, the professor of the Faculty of Studies at the University of Tehran said: With those attacks, the UAE realized that its continued presence could inflict an irreparable blow, therefore with the erosion of the war it withdrew direct involvement and entered into another deal with the Houthis. Of course, its forces are still present in some areas, but they play no direct role in the conflict with the Houthis.
Borhani described the change in the announced US policy towards Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war as a sign of Biden’s unwillingness to continue the conflict in Yemen and continued: Saudi Arabia has inevitably come to the conclusion that continuation of the war is not in its interest and seeks to resolve the problem through peaceful means and negotiation with the powers that have influence in this area.
Saudi-UAE Conflict of Interests in Yemen
Referring to the lack of coordination between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the coalition due to the different goals in the Yemen war, he called it one of the differences between the two countries and said: Interests of the two countries, despite the commonalities in the Yemen war, also had differences. The UAE aspires to have a large naval and commercial power in the Middle East region and is interested in better control over the trade and sea routes.
Borhani explained: Yemen is located next to Bab-el-Mandeb, which is of special importance in this regard and the UAE, with the aim of controlling this route, was very willing to have a base in that region; while this issue was not much important for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is more concerned about security and sought to establish a harmonious government on the peninsula.
The analyst of the Middle East affairs added that Saudi Arabia’s rise to power and the Houthi activity in Yemen worries Saudi Arabia about its impact on its Shiite population, noting: Those issues do not matter to the UAE, and from the UAE perspective most issues related to trade have been important in the region.
Referring to Saudi support for the Al-Islah Brotherhood in southern Yemen and their widespread attacks on elements aligned with the UAE, Borhani said: The UAE has a promising image for the Middle East and does not want Iran and its allies, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies gain power. The UAE had concerns about Yemen in this regard and was pursuing activities.
UAE concerned about Saudi proximity to the Brotherhood
He said: Previously, the UAE and Saudi Arabia did not pay attention to the Brotherhood forces in Yemen, but after the presence of Mr. Biden, reconciliation between the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia, and specifically between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, is taking shape and reconciliation has taken place between Qatar and Saudi Arabia; therefore, the Saudis do not have the previous enmity with the Brotherhood, and differences have subsided.
The faculty member of the University of Tehran reminded: On the other hand, since the Saudi allied forces in Yemen failed to compete with the Houthis and now Marib is on the verge of collapse and there is a possibility for the advancement of the Houthi forces, Saudi Arabia is strongly after using the Brotherhood forces in this atmosphere in its own interest.
Referring to the news about sending the drones and some military planes by Turkey to Saudi Arabia, as well as formation of an alliance with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey with an aim of creating a greater power to confront the Houthis, Borhani said: Reports indicate that the UAE is fundamentally concerned about those developments and is dissatisfied with the reconciliation between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood in general, and still has the negative attitude of the past towards the Brotherhood.
UAE-Saudi Alliance brought under question
Regarding the prospects of relations between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, despite some differences between the two sides and the fact that their expectations have not been met, he stressed: It seems that we have reached a period when the differences between the two countries have seriously increased. Until now, they had common positions and projects in the region, but gradually distanced themselves from each other and showed different positions.
The analyst of the Middle East affairs blamed differences of interest in Yemen for widespread differences of opinion between Saudi and UAE intelligence agencies and added: It is possible that those differences will gradually escalate to the point where their proximity and alliance will be affected and completely bring under question. Especially since the region is currently undergoing more developments and we are witnessing some efforts for the start of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as settlement of the issue of Yemen and Libya. Given that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in different situations and have different perspectives, it is likely that their past relations in the region will fade altogether.
Saudi Arabia compelled to change some regional policies
Borhani said that the UAE as a whole is in a more stable situation than Saudi Arabia and does not have urgent economic and political concerns; but Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman find themselves facing many concerns; including human rights issues and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the war in Yemen, drone and missile attacks on its own territory, and Biden’s presence and the new US policy toward the region which had deeply concerned Saudi Arabia.
He added: Riyadh, in order to maintain its stability and security in those new conditions, has come to the conclusion that it must make changes in its regional policy, but the UAE does not see itself under pressure from those angles and does not like the change of Saudi position; therefore, in view of those developments, the prospect of an alliance between the two countries has completely brought under question.