Ansar Allah renews attacks on the United Arab Emirates


As of 25 January 2022, a week on from the 17 January attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis), tensions remain high, with another launch of two ballistic missiles on Abu Dhabi in the early hours of 24 January. These two missiles were successfully intercepted by UAE air defence forces but a statement from the United States Air Force on 24 January stated that the US had also “reacted to multiple inbound threats during an attack near Abu Dhabi”.

The UAE Ministry of Defence Joint Operations Command announced that at 04:10 Yemeni time on 24 January a UAE F-16 had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al Jawf, Yemen, in response to the ballistic missile attack at Abu Dhabi.

The January attacks by Ansar Allah are likely driven by the group's territorial setbacks in Shabwa region and are likely retaliation for the UAE's renewed involvement in the conflict.

Short term (one to three months)

The Ansar Allah attacks on the UAE on 17 January 2022 were part of a larger response from the group to its strategic setback in Yemen during the past three months. The UAE's involvement and re-engagement in Yemen has spurred the group to quickly target the UAE, putting at risk the safety of its citizens and its large expatriate community.

The follow-on attack of ballistic missiles on the 24 January demonstrates that Ansar Allah perceives pressuring the UAE as a high priority and will highly likely continue to target the country with UAV and missiles attacks over the next one to three months. This second attack also highlighted the potential for the UAE to suffer economic as well as physical damage. According to reporting by business news site Zawya, Dubai's main index dropped 1.4% in the aftermath of Ansar Allah's second attack on 24 January 2022. Striking infrastructure such as airports and oil depots could deter investors and tourists, threatening the Emirati economy as well as its citizens and property.

Long term (6 months plus)

Any short-term increase in attacks on the UAE will have significant long-term security consequences. First, homeland anti-missile and counter-UAV security will become a priority. Supplies of interceptor missiles and supplies from countries such as the US, as well as recently signed agreements with South Korea for the delivery of the Cheongung II missile system, are likely to become an important political issue.

Second, if the UAE were to continue to respond to any further attacks by Ansar Allah with increased airstrikes, such as its 24 January response of attacking Ansar Allah's ballistic missile launcher in Al-Jawf, it is highly likely that the country will increasingly find itself once again committed to the Yemeni conflict. Any increased military actions are therefore likely to lead to increased political commitments over the long term.

Third, any increase in involvement by the UAE in Yemen will have political consequences for the country's tentative talks with Iran and also with Saudi Arabia. Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia have had joint success in repelling Ansar Allah from Shabwa in recent months, both countries still have different historical approaches to the conflict, which could come to the fore. The US is likely to carefully watch any increase in air attacks by the UAE in Yemen, especially if civilians are wounded or killed.


Situation As of 25 January 2022, a week on from the 17 January attacks on the United Arab Emirates ...

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