Last month, it was confirmed that Al Qaida master bomb-maker Ebrahim Al Asiri was killed by an air strike in Yemen.
Al Asiri was the plotter of attacks against international and United States targets, including the 2009 plot of the “underwear bomber” who tried to take down a US airliner.
According to former CIA acting director Michael Morell, it was the most significant removal of a terrorist from the battlefield since the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
This was the latest success in Yemen against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) by a closely coordinated intelligence and military operation between the UAE and the US. Led on the ground by the UAE, this intensive campaign has removed more than 2,000 hard-core militants from the battlefield, improved security and delivered humanitarian and development assistance to the port city of Mukalla and other liberated areas.
Just three years ago, AQAP was riding high in Yemen. It had seized a third of the country, was terrorising Yemenis and was plotting more attacks against American and international targets.
Today, AQAP is reduced to its weakest point since 2012. Unfortunately, AQAP is not the only major threat in Yemen.
Iran and its proxy
The other is Iran and its Hezbollah-like proxy group, Al Houthis, who triggered the current political and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Representing barely 5 per cent of the country’s population, Al Houthis violently overthrew Yemen’s legitimate government in 2014-2015 and seized the capital other large cities and the entire Red Sea coast. The first line of their adopted call to arms is “Death to America”.
Iran is providing Al Houthis some of the most sophisticated weaponry and know-how ever obtained by a nonstate actor.
As documented in detail by the United Nations, the US and independent experts, the Al Houthi arsenal includes anti-ship missiles and remotely-guided explosive boats launched at naval vessels and commercial oil tankers, hundreds of ballistic missiles, rockets and armed aerial drones targeting cities and civilians in Saudi Arabia, apart from more than half a million landmines and improvised explosive devices indiscriminately placed with devastating consequences to the Yemeni people.
With a mandate from the UN, the UAE, as part of a larger Arab coalition, is making significant progress against Al Houthis. Large parts of Southern Yemen have been liberated.
Much of the Red Sea coast has been secured with the focus now on Hodeida, the last major port under Al Houthi control.
This calibrated offensive has reduced the danger to international shipping, applied additional pressure on Al Houthis to negotiate and, in what has always been the most critical priority, maintained the flow of humanitarian assistance.
Qatari complicity goes even deeper
While the UAE is a leader in the fight against extremism and aggression, others are enabling and prolonging it.
As the US tightened sanctions last month on Iran for its interference in Yemen and across the Middle East, Qatar again showed itself as the favoured benefactor of Islamic extremism.
Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to offer Qatar’s support with expanded maritime cooperation, investment incentives and construction contracts.
Qatari complicity goes even deeper.
As the Post reported in April, Qatar made ransom payments of hundreds of millions of dollars directly to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other extremists to free kidnapped Qatari royals.
In Yemen, Qatar’s flagship Eid Charity lavished millions on designated AQAP ringleader Abd Al Wahhab Al Humayqani, who previously worked in Qatar’s Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Qatar’s state-owned and funded Al Jazeera media network is the region’s extremist bullhorn, while terrorist moneymen designated by the US, the UN and others enjoy haven in Doha.
In a glaring contrast, the UAE and the US fight hand in hand against AQAP in Yemen, just as we did against the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan, Al Shabab in Somalia and Daesh in Syria.
For now, the priority must be to end the war in Yemen.
The UAE believes a political process offers the only lasting solution and strongly supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths — efforts that Al Houthis rejected just days ago by skipping the scheduled talks in Geneva.
Security risks proliferate
The security risks on and around the Arabian Peninsula proliferate. Al Houthis are defiant and dangerous, reliant on their Iranian lifeline.
AQAP remains a persistent threat as long as Yemen is without effective governance and security.
These stateless actors terrorise nations and global commerce with Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles and weaponised drones.
They produce suicide bombers capable of blowing up aeroplanes over the American homeland.
The Middle East is a complicated and dangerous place, but the UAE is absolutely clear about our vision of the region and the partners who share it.
While some hedge their bets with Iran, the UAE is fighting its most dangerous proxy.
While others enable and encourage the extremists, the UAE stands with the US on the front line to defeat them.
It is difficult and deadly work, but the UAE, the US and the international community are safer because of it.