Gulf – The UAE and it’s allies must have a military or proxy military presence in the Gulf of Aden. This serves it’s long-term strategic goal of fending off the aggressive Iranian Shia ideology that seeks to dominate the Gulf region.
The UAE along with Saudi Arabia are locked in an ideological and proxy-military battle with Iran. A fierce sectarian battle is unfolding in the Muslim world, the middle-east is ground zero.
The Iranian Shia regime is fundamentally at odds with Sunni Islam. Shia beliefs are a cocktail of Islamic traditions and Zoroastrianism (the religion that predated Islam in Iran).
Where Sunni Islam firmly attributes the right of worship to God alone, Shia doctrine encourages the worship of ‘saints’.
Through this belief system, Shi’ism redistributes Godly influence to men by way of deified ‘Imaams’ or more recently, Ayat’ullah’s (translated into English as God’s proof).
What you are left with, are very influential men with undue religious influence.
During the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Iranian religious leader Khomeini announced a holy mandate to spread Shi’ism to the world. The Shia population has been growing rapidly ever since.
The ultimate prize for the Iranian Shia regime is dominating Saudi Arabia, using the two holiest mosques in Islam, Mecca and Medina, as a platform to further spread their ideology.
Today, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and its gulf neighbors are enveloped by this aggressive Iranian ideology. To the north of the gulf is Iraq (70% Shia), to the East is Iran (The home of Shia Islam and 90% Shia) and to the South is Yemen (30% Shia) – where Iranian backed Houthi-Shia rebels are stuck in a bloody battle with the Yemeni government, and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE and Gulf region is surrounded by Iranian backed regimes and they are tightening their grip. Lebanon, Syria and even Bahrain are now either majority Shia or under Shia leadership.
Somalia’s strategic location to the south-west of the Gulf region, allows for the Iranian threat to be contained by way of reinforcing the Sunni Muslim flank. Iran are aware of this and have made efforts to destablize Somalia.
In 2017, several Iranian ships were caught trying to smuggle machine guns to militants in Somalia.
Moreover, the Somali maritime space plays a crucial role in preventing the illegal smuggling of weapons by the Iranian regime, to the Houthi Shia rebels in Yemen.
The Houthi’s have been regularly firing Iranian made missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia for the past two years, with some missiles even killing civilians in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. These missiles are smuggled into Yemen via the Gulf of Aden.
Qatar, being the odd Sunni country in this equation, has been accused by it’s Sunni neighbors (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain) of investing in extremist groups and destabilizing the region.
Qatar has been investing in groups, individuals and political movements that it believes may acquire future power so that Qatar may later exert influence.
The fallout of this desire to be the most influential Gulf country is that Qatar has been indirectly funding extremist organizations. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (who were the precursor to several rebellions in the Middle East and North Africa) and even the Taliban. This has led to a wider Gulf boycott of Qatar. Qatar however, has responded by aligning itself with Iran and other gulf adversaries.
When asked by the UAE to boycott Qatar, Somalia decided against this and by extension cut ties with the Sunni Gulf world. The UAE and it’s Gulf allies did not just want Somalia’s cooperation, they needed it. This created a huge rift between Somalia and Qatar on one side and the UAE and Saudi Arabia on the other.
Somalia’s strategic location plays a crucial role of loosening the Iranian chokehold on the Gulf. The UAE have recently announced that they would be building a military base in autonomous Somaliland, however this marine territory does not stretch far enough to cover Yemen’s territorial waters. Therefore, a marine base in Somaliland would not adequately prevent the smuggling of Iranian weapons into Yemen.
It is essential for the long-term strategic plans of the UAE and her allies to have a military presence along the coastline of Somalia. Or at the very least, a proxy marine force representing Gulf interests in the region.
On the 15th of June, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed Zayed arrived in Addis Ababa for an official state visit. In a meeting with Prime Minister Abiy of Ethiopia, the crown prince pledged $3 billion USD. Two days later, PM Abiy made a suprise visit to Somalia with an offer for access to four Somali ports, so irresistibly, that President Farmaajo of Somalia couldn’t refuse.
Earlier this month, Ethiopia made global headlines when it declared its ambition to build it’s marines. Roba Megerssa Akawak, head of the state-owned Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE), said ” a navy would help protect Ethiopian commercial ships in a “very volatile” Red Sea area”.
This UAE backed Ethiopia acquisition of Somalia’s ports is possibly the beginning of a Gulf backed proxy marine force in the region.
One way or another, the UAE and it’s allies, need to militarize Somalia’s ports.