21st century comforts of Dubai and the glitzy skyscrapers feel quite distant in the barren sand dunes of Marib in Yemen that is central, the latest tactical prize in a regional power struggle comparing the rich Gulf Arab states against Iran.
Equipped with high tech weapons that was Western, Gulf Arab soldiers are fighting with newfound conviction against the things they view as the expanding influence of Iran, their non-Arab and Shia Muslim archfoe, in a war which has ravaged Yemen for half a year.
“Me, I don’t know very much about Yemen, but Sheikh Mohammed knows much more and we must do our duty,” said Salem, referring to the ruler of Dubai who is also the prime minister of the UAE.
“I know Yemen’s an important country and next to all of ours. Whatever happens here we can’t ignore — it will spread to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Iran won’t stop until it spreads its Persian empire over everywhere here,” said Salem, a bearded youth wearing a camouflage head wrap and designer sunglasses.
The petroleum-producing state of Marib is now a key battleground between Iranian-allied a coalition of Yemenis and Emirati, Saudi and Bahraini troops as well as Houthi militia.
Aware of similar sectarian-fuelled clashes fragmenting other Arab states including Syria and Iraq, Yemeni combatants and the Gulf Arab find their cause that is common in Yemen helping to restore an expression of solidarity that is Arab.
“For six months we have fought and endured in Marib, keeping only several little districts till they came to our assistance.
The coalition would like to restore a Yemeni authorities ousted by the Houthis in March, a development viewed by the Gulf Arab states as an indicator of the expansionist goals in Iran.
Tehran denies supplying military support.
The coalition intervention in Yemen was restricted to air strikes but also features a ground war and, regardless of the Gulf Arabs’ firepower that was way superior, it is difficult.
A Houthi missile killed more than 60 Gulf Arab troops stationed on Sept 4, the worst loss suffered by the
UAE military, including 52 Emiratis, among the very sophisticated in the Arab world in Marib province.
The awareness of private battle has deepened in the war on the list of Gulf troops.