DUBAI — As a vicious civil war erupted in Yemen two years ago and triggered international alarm, the United States warned the combatants to step back. But its efforts were quietly undermined by one of the most trusted U.S. regional allies: the United Arab Emirates.
Hundreds of people had died in battles and airstrikes. But the UAE, part of a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that is supported by the United States, encouraged its partners to resist then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s appeals for peace talks or a cease-fire.
“Yemenis should be firm, as the secretary is a persuasive speaker,” Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a senior Emirati leader, told Yemen’s prime minister as Kerry headed to the region in May 2015. The Gulf Arab states also should “stand firm,” the prince said, according to a meeting summary that was part of leaked Emirati diplomatic emails shared with The Washington Post.
The meeting hinted at the UAE’s drive for influence across the Middle East, using military power, diplomacy and covert means to bolster allies and counter rivals. Its role in Yemen and other recent actions has caused friction with the United States, complicating their decades-long military relationship.