From the war in Yemen and support for renegade Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar to the blockade of Qatar, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are intimately involved in contributing to instability in the Middle East.

Since the start of the Arab uprisings in 2011, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have actively intervened in several states to put an end to the democratic aspirations of the citizens of those countries.

In some instances, the two states have not shied away from direct military intervention, supporting warlords and imposing economic boycotts, in order to get their way.

Under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh and Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, Emirati and Saudi forces have been involved militarily in Yemen, and have supported forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar in Libya.

Here we look at just some of the countries the pair have interfered in and what impact that intervention has had.


Emirati authorities were quick to take to former Gaddafi general turned renegade warlord Khalifa Haftar. After the former’s demise, Haftar quickly presented himself as a secular force capable of uniting the divided country and preventing it from an extremist take over.

The self-styled field marshal has gone to great lengths to secure control of the country but his success has been limited.

After capturing the eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan capital of Tripoli- where the UN-recognised government is based-  has been a more arduous task.

Despite support from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and France, Haftar’s forces have failed to take over the city.

That’s not to say his forces have not had an impact. Haftar’s fighters have carried out unlawful killings of prisoners and his ongoing campaign has cost the country billions.

“Haftar has systematically tried to undermine or defeat the narrative of pluralism under the pretext of fighting ‘terrorism’,” says Andreas Krieg, Assistant Professor and Middle East Security Analyst at King's College London.

He adds: “It is a term that is being used lightly against any dissident or opposition force that does not cooperate with his LNA – in itself a loose affiliation of different militias that he has bought off with Emirati money.


In 2013, General Abdel Fattah el Sisi launched a military takeover to oust Egypt’s first and only democratically elected leader, President Mohamed Morsi.

What’s less well known is that the coup was heavily bankrolled by Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The countries poured billions of dollars into Egypt to sure up the economy and ensure a smooth transition to the military dictatorship Sisi established.

So much money was provided to the Egyptians, that Sisi is reported to have mocked the countries for having ‘money like rice’ while casually requesting a $10bn deposit into an Egyptian military bank account.

Despite the hopes of its revolutionaries in 2011, Egypt today is a country where dissent is stifled, and tens of thousands linger in overcrowded prisons for voicing opposition to the military regime.


In 2015, the UAE and Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in the poorest Arab state, ostensibly aimed at restoring the rule of the Yemeni government, which had been forced to flee the country in the face of Houthi rebels.

Despite overwhelming airpower, after five years of conflict the Saudis- the alliance has failed to capture much of the country from the Houthis, with the rebels still in control of the capital Sanaa.

Not satisfied with just expelling the Houthis, the UAE has also backed separatists in the south, in their bid to secure a state free of Yemeni government control. 

Due in part to the intervention by the Gulf states, Yemen is on the brink of starvation and faces a cholera crisis.

Fight, famine, and disease in Yemen have killed close to 100,000 people.


In June 2017, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain, broke off all ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on the Gulf state.

The quartet accused Qatar of supporting extremists across the Middle East, a charge Doha vehemently rejects.

Demands for the resumption of ties included the shuttering of the Al Jazeera media network and to pay billions in ‘reparations’.

Qatar’s rulers rejected the demands.

Source: TRT World