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A nation must think before it acts.
This article examines the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) involvement in proxy warfare in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The UAE’s security posture in these volatile regions has evolved remarkably over the last two decades and set the Emirates apart from many of its rivals, peers, and neighbors, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Most countries have intervened in conflicts in order to affect politics in the center, either by backing pro-government militias or center-seeking rebel groups. The UAE, in contrast, has constructed a portfolio of proxy relationships mostly with separatist groups. Such groups operate in far flung peripheral territories of countries like Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia. They do not seek to seize the state, but to break away from it. This approach to proxy warfare has granted the UAE unique negative control at relatively little cost. Through its proxy networks, the UAE can impede adversaries from consolidating control across the Indian Ocean littoral and maintain influence in the key maritime passages to Europe and Asia.