North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Now it's the UAE ...

We'll make it quick - another post on the spreading conflicts across the Arab world. This time one of the small conservative monarchies that usually receives little attention, the United Arab Emirates, is involved.

Where is the UAE?

Answer, it is in a rather delicate location, ie. a key location, making up the peninsula of land that separates the Persian Gulf from the Indian Ocean. Which means the UAE sits with a bird's eye view of over 35% of the world's sea-borne oil traffic (in a rather unstable region to say the least).

The UAE, like a thorn poised to puncture a balloon loaded with oil ... Though if one looks closely at the map, the actual point of the thorn is an exclave of Oman. Graphic from wikipedia.

Iran, all the land to the right in this photo, has long declared its intentions to sink a few of those oil tankers traveling through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, if it felt threatened. Photo from

Oil tankers threading through a number of military vessels. Teatree isn't sure if this congestion is normal, or from one of many tension-filled spats in the recent past. Photo from

Wikipedia states "UAE's total population was 9.2 million; 1.4 million Emirati citizens and 7.8 million expatriates." Somewhere close to the truth, though estimates range from 3.8 million native Arabic speaking citizens and the balance are foreign workers. The point is that there are substantially more non-native dwellers - a situation that is alleviated by the fact that citizens and residents alike in the small set of emirates enjoy a wealthy income average.

Established in late 1971, the country is a federation of seven emirates (equivalent to principalities). Each emirate is governed by a hereditary emir who jointly form the Federal Supreme Council, the highest legislative and executive body in the country. One of the emirs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. The capital is Abu Dhabi, which is one of the two centers of commercial and cultural activities, together with Dubai.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the UAE's two major cities - it is rather hard to believe the wealth and commercial buildings that have been built up in this small country. Photo from

Where are a lot of those workers from? Again from Wikipedia, "UAE and India are each other's main trading partners, with the latter having many of its citizens working and living in the former."

Actually an interesting picture that shows ethnic UAE arabs and many Indian office workers. They were evacuating the breathtaking high towers, after some earthquake tremors in 2013. Photo from

What's UAE been up to?

Soberingly enough, last week the UAE, in partnership with Egypt who provided support from its western air bases, sent fighter jets to the North African coast, to bomb Islamist positions surrounding Libya's main airport in Tripoli. Egypt and the UAE, and one supposes other Arab nations are acting on their own to support a faction in Libya more to their liking than Islamist militias.

A UAE F-16 fighter jet in an unrelated photo, but likely the model used in action in Libya. Photo from Canada's National Post

Libya, of course, was the showcase three years ago for Western powers on how to depose a ruthless dictator Colonel Ghadaffi and usher in an Arab version of democracy all with relatively risk free cruise missiles and bombers. An all-important endorsement at the time of the Arab League for brief, limited intervention was deemed and trumpeted as essential, and expectations were that Libya could steadily move forward with representative elections. However, as the US and Western allies' narratives of smart diplomacy and international coalitions as the correct approach began to diverge while the continued conflicts and fighting between militias escalated, a vacuum of leadership and power emerged and deepened, complete with dueling parliaments. Now,the UAE and Egypt have opted to go it alone in support of their own interests in Egypt's neighbor, not even bothering to communicate with the Western nations ahead of time.

A very cleaned up map of Libya, that nonetheless hints at some of the ancient ethnic lines running through this artificially constructed nation-state. Graphic from

Smoke rises from the area near Libya's main airport in Tripoli after UAE airstrikes in support of a Libyan General's forces fighting Islamist militias. (However, in spite of the airstrikes, Islamists - under the banner of "Dawn of Libya" - still took control of the airport) For an illuminating article, read this by The Guardian newspaper last week.

A fair number of airplanes now sit on Tripoli airport tarmac, damaged by fighting. Photo from Reuters

That's it. Libya is splintering, many sides are available to be backed, the UAE has felt compelled to participate, and Western powers are sidelined across the region, as the Arab world unravels.


Sarah said...

I like the new "explanation" of the website and new design. The picture of the oil tankers and military vessels is really interesting. I had heard NOTHING about this in the news... good thing I know where to come for additional information!

Pearlpearly said...

I like the new format as well, for some reason it's easier to read. Maybe it's gentler on the eyes whilst reading such heavy world events?
Regardless, this is always the best place to come to learn what's happening in terms I can understand. Keep writing!