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United Arab Emirates: monthly report April 2024

The month of February witnessed important security events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including the killing of four Emirati soldiers in Somalia and restrictions on the use of military bases in the UAE by the United States. On the economic front, there is notable news of an agreement between Cairo and Abu Dhabi for the development of Ras el-Hekma.

On Sunday, February 11, four Emirati and one Bahraini military personnel in Somalia were killed in an attack claimed by the terrorist organization al-Shabaab. The terrorists targeted the General Gordon military base in Mogadishu, describing the UAE as an "enemy of Islam and Sharia" due to its support for the Somali government in the fight against al-Shabaab. In addition to their support to Mogadishu against terrorist activities, The UAE see Somalia as a significant destination for investments, particularly focusing on ports in the Red Sea area and in East Africa in recent years.

In the military sector, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are restricting the use of their air bases by the U.S. Air Force for attacks against pro-Iranian militias in the region. These restrictions come amid the tricky context of the Gaza conflict, Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and actions by Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq. In this situation, Sunni monarchies attempt to balance the need to contain militias close to Tehran and, on the other hand, not appear too closely aligned with Washington and Tel Aviv. Additionally, the Arab countries have been engaged in a years-long attempt at détente with the Islamic Republic, partly motivating this decision. The news holds particular significance for the United States, facing repeated attacks by Iranian proxies in the region, escalating since October 7. Some weeks after the Hamas attack, the Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah had threatened to strike Emirati and Kuwaiti bases hosting American military personnel in retaliation for Washington's support of Israel.

Economically, there is strengthened Emirati support for Egypt, grappling with a profound economic and financial crisis exacerbated by conflicts in Sudan and Gaza. A bilateral agreement worth $35 billion has been reached for the development of the Ras el-Hekma area in the northeast of Egypt. Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that Cairo would receive $15 billion in the coming weeks and the remaining $20 billion within two months. The partnership between the Egyptian government and the Emirati sovereign wealth fund ADQ includes a 35% share of profits allocated to Cairo, serving the crucial role of reassuring markets and investors about the financial stability of the North African country. According to several Egyptian economists, this agreement strengthens the country's position in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new $10 billion loan. The Gulf countries, particularly the UAE, are aware of the importance of restoring Cairo to a path of economic stability, especially given the regional crisis context.

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