Compulsory military service in the UAE: It’s not about the Muslim Brotherhood

About 10 days ago I wrote about the decision taken by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar. Most of the coverage about this diplomatic row has focused on Qatar’s patronage of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the issue but, I suspect, less worrying for KSA and Bahrain than Qatar’s friendly relations with Iran. The one country I couldn’t fit under that theory was the UAE, because I thought that their relations with Iran were on the upswing due to a tentative agreement over the status of three disputed islands in the Persian Gulf. Turns out I was wrong, or at least that Iran denies any deal was reached. That would make this story a lot more understandable:

A fast-tracked law requiring young Emirati men to sign up for military service could be in force as soon as the end of the year.

The draft law requires military service for all Emirati men between the ages of 18 and 30, and makes it optional for Emirati women.

Those who have finished secondary school will serve for nine months. Those who have not graduated are required to serve two years.

As Michael Collins Dunn writes:

The plan, introduced earlier this year and since approved by the Cabinet, is expected to be in place by the end of the year, While government officials are talking up the benefits for Emirati youth, it’s also pretty  clearly an indicator of the UAE’s ongoing concerns about Iran and other security threats in the region, and is apparently being fast-tracked.

Whatever benefits the UAE thinks compulsory service might have for its young citizens, they’re implementing compulsory military service for a reason, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because they’re concerned about an attack by the Muslim Brotherhood.


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