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    Yemen's Socotra: The UAE's "Eighth Emirate"?

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    Andrew Korybko
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    The latest reports about the UAE's dispatch of troops and tanks to the Yemeni island of Socotra without the permission of the internationally recognized government that it's supposedly allied with have raised eyebrows and caused some to remark that the territory might be slated to become the Gulf country's "eighth emirate".

    The UK Independent published the first in an exclusive series of reports last week about the Indian Ocean Island that its journalists recently travelled to, revealing that the UAE was for all intents and purposes in full control of this territory despite there never having been any presence of the Houthi rebels here. This prompted the Yemeni Prime Minister to take to Facebook to condemn what he called the "continuing disagreement" and declare that "correcting this is everyone's responsibility".

    The UAE's official response is that its military presence is being "distorted" by what it described as "malicious campaigns led by the Muslim Brotherhood", though unnamed sources told the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that Yemen was considering asking the UN Security Council to intervene in restoring Sanaa's sovereignty over the island.

    This surprising development comes as the UAE and its Saudi coalition ally are still in the throes of a low-intensity disagreement with one another over the future of the former country of South Yemen, whose Emirati-backed separatists staged a so-called "soft coup" in Aden at the beginning of this year against the Saudi-supported international Yemeni authorities there. Prior to the 1990 unification, South Yemen controlled Socotra, so any UAE-backed secession could see the island fall into Abu Dhabi's hands by proxy, that is, unless the Emirates stage its own separatist-within-a-separatist campaign like some analysts have suspected might be around the corner. From a strategic standpoint and little-known to the rest of the world, this tiny country has taken on an outsized importance lately by establishing a military presence all throughout the Gulf of Aden.

    Apart from South Yemen and Socotra, the UAE is also building a base in Somalia's self-proclaimed independent region of Somaliland, with all Emirati-aligned sub-national regions allowing Abu Dhabi to exercise influence over the waterway through which the bulk of EU-Chinese trade must traverse. Bearing this global strategic significance in mind, there's certainly some logic to why the UAE might seek to directly or indirectly make the centrally positioned island of Socotra its "eighth emirate".

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    Socotra, UAE, Gulf of Aden, Yemen
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