UAE Withdraws from US-Led Maritime Coalition, Seeking Greater Security Measures and Diversification of Relationships

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently withdrawn from a maritime coalition led by the United States, citing a comprehensive evaluation of its security requirements, according to a statement released by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The decision, which reflects the UAE’s growing frustration with what it perceives as a lack of US efforts to safeguard Middle East shipping lanes, marks a significant shift in the region’s geopolitical landscape and alters the dynamics of international collaboration in maritime security.

The US-led coalition, known as the Combined Maritime Forces, comprises 34 nations and is headquartered at a naval base in Bahrain. It was originally formed to combat terrorism and piracy in the Red Sea and Gulf regions, which house some of the world’s most critical shipping routes. Tensions between the US and Iran have resulted in a series of vessel attacks since 2019, further emphasizing the importance of maritime security in the area.

In May, the US announced its intention to strengthen its defensive posture in the Gulf, accusing Iran of escalating attacks on commercial shipping. Iranian forces had seized two international oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, including one traveling from Dubai to Fujairah. Iranian officials claimed that one of the tankers had collided with an Iranian vessel and attempted to flee, while the other was brought into Iranian territorial waters based on a legal complaint.

According to reports from The Wall Street Journal, the UAE’s decision to withdraw from the coalition stemmed from its perceived dissatisfaction with the US response to Iranian threats. Citing sources from the US and Gulf countries, the newspaper suggested that the UAE had expressed disappointment and demanded stronger action from the US to deter Iran following these recent incidents. However, the UAE denied the accuracy of the report, describing it as a “mischaracterization” of their conversations with the US.

Experts have interpreted the UAE’s move as an indication of Abu Dhabi’s discontent with Washington. Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, stated that the UAE’s withdrawal reflects its frustration with the US’s perceived lack of commitment to actively protect its partners and reestablish credible deterrence in the Gulf. Andreas Krieg, an associate professor at King’s College London, highlighted the UAE’s desire to diversify its security partnerships and fill voids independently where possible, considering the US as consistently falling short of its role as a regional security guarantor.

This decision by the UAE also serves as a symbolic demonstration to the US that the UAE is a confident and sovereign nation capable of selecting its own alliances. It underscores Abu Dhabi’s resolve to push back against US demands to sever ties with Russia and China, as the UAE seeks to diversify its partnerships and serve its security interests. By signaling its leverage in the bilateral relationship, particularly in the context of the maritime partnership, the UAE is conveying to Washington that the US also relies on Emirati support.

The UAE’s withdrawal from the US-led coalition reflects its pursuit of enhanced security measures and a strategic shift in its relationships. As the region’s geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, the UAE aims to protect its interests and ensure the safety of navigation along its shores in accordance with international law. This move reshapes the maritime security landscape, presenting new challenges and opportunities for regional and international actors alike.

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