Foreign policy and defense
According to abbreviationfinder, United Arab Emirates is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Abu Dhabi. Arab unity is an important element of the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy. In the Arab world, the country is usually on the side of conservative states. Long ago, the emirate has had close relations with Iran – but a territorial dispute is hampering contacts. In Yemen’s civil war, the emirate has participated in the Saudi-backed government’s military efforts against the Shiite Muslim Huthirbels.
The United Arab Emirates’ most serious foreign policy dispute concerns the two Tunisians and the island of Abu Musa. These have been controlled by Iran since 1970, but the Emirate of Sharjah claims them. The conflict was exacerbated in 1996 when Iran opened an airport at Abu Musa and a power plant in Tunisia, and it has flared up at regular intervals, no later than 2012. Despite the dispute, the countries maintain strong trade relations.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in United Arab Emirates for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The United Arab Emirates has a defense treaty with Saudi Arabia. In recent years, however, the state leadership has tried to limit the neighboring country’s great influence over several of the emirates. For a long time, the countries also have a dispute about the border line north of the large oil field Shayba in the al-Rub al-Khali desert.
In 1981, the United Arab Emirates joined and formed a cooperative organization for the Gulf States, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), together with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The countries have a mutual defense pact and in 2008 the region became a common market with free movement. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, sent forces under the GCC to Bahrain to help the regime against Shiite protests in 2011. Disagreements between Qatar and the other GCC countries have later put the cooperation to the test, with trade boycotts included.
The United Arab Emirates was one of the countries that maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1996–2001. Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, carried out by, among other two emirates, the Emirates broke off its contacts with the Taliban. Between 2003 and 2014, Emirati elite soldiers assisted the United States during the war in Afghanistan. The state, on the other hand, was awaiting US plans to attack Iraq to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein. US airbases in the Emirates played a marginal role when the invasion began in 2003.
The United Arab Emirates has purchased combat aircraft and other military equipment from the United States to a large extent. US military personnel are stationed in the emirate, and during the 2010s, cooperation has been strengthened by both countries wanting to counter both militant Islamism and Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. A defense agreement between the countries entered into force in May 2019.
Following a 2008 agreement between France and the emirate, a French military base was opened in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
In 2013, the Emirate supported the military coup that deposed Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi from the Muslim Brotherhood, then assisted the new Egyptian military government with $ 3 billion. In 2014, according to US sources, the United Arab Emirates has carried out a bomb attack with Egypt against Islamist militia in Libya. From 2014, the emirate also participated in air strikes against the jihadist extremist group Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria. After a Jordanian pilot was captured by IS when his plane was shot down that year, the Emirates stopped the bombing, citing that the United States must be better at rescue operations. But when the pilot was brutally killed by IS in early 2015, the attacks resumed.
In recent years, at the same time as the Emirate’s participation in the civil war in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates has also sought to expand the dialogue with other major religions. The head of the Catholic Church Franciscus was able to conduct the first pope visit in the Arabian Peninsula in early 2019 and meetings with Sunni Muslim leaders were followed by a large mass. Most of the Christians in the emirate are native to Asia, not least the Philippines, so the Pope’s visit also has symbolic value as a gesture towards the guest workers’ homelands.
In the Yemen war, the emirate has participated with ground troops, while Saudi Arabia has, above all, carried out air strikes and attracted sharper international criticism. However, it has emerged that the United Arab Emirates is responsible for prisons on Yemeni land, where, according to human rights organizations, there have been severe abuses. In the summer of 2019, the emirate announced that fighting alliances would be withdrawn, although it could create friction with Saudi Arabia, which was hired from the south by Yemeni Shi’ite belligerents.
In the civil war in Libya, the emirate has taken a clearer position, for warlord Khalifa Haftar, who from the east is fighting the government headquartered in Tripoli. For a major offensive against Tripoli that Haftar initiated in 2019 and continued in 2020, the emirate is reported to have recruited soldiers in Sudan, with the withdrawal of financial support as a means of pressure.
Since 1976, the seven emirates have a joint, federal defense with almost a third of foreign nationals. However, Dubai still has its own smaller force. Military service is mandatory for all men between the ages of 18 and 30. The defense is funded almost entirely by Abu Dhabi.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 44,000 men (2017)
The air Force: 4,500 men (2017)
The fleet: 2,500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 5.6 percent (2014)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 17.0 percent (2014)