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The UAE’s mercenary army? 16, May 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
Tags: , ,

So it seems that the UAE, or more specifically, Abu Dhabi, has been cultivating mercenary armed forces in the desert. Their aim is reportedly to either quell uprisings within the Emirates, act somehow against Iran or to be first responders to a terrorist incident.

All in all it is really rather impressively poorly thought out.

  • So the UAE want to rely on a bunch of paid killers for their security. People who have specialised (particularly in the South African case) in taking money and killing people at the behest of…well…anyone. What a morally bankrupt policy.
  • The report notes that such an army might be a part of a plan, one day, to take back the Abu Musa and Tunb islands from Iran. What a joke. There is no way that the Emirates would be that stupid: that would be a bona fide act of war, however justified historically. And I would not want such a mission to be entrusted to a bunch of mercenaries who couldn’t give two hoots about the lumps of rock in the Gulf: if there’s a good chance you’d die (do you think the Iranians would give up without a fight, or fight fairly for that matter?) it hardly matters how much you’re being paid.
  • A mercenary army unleashed against Emirati protestors? Is that what’s envisaged? This would immediately de-legitimize their mission and cause a fire-storm of protests: ‘Emiratis killed by foreign mercenaries’
  • A bunch of mercenaries as first responders to a terrorist attack? What – exactly – would their rules of engagement be? What role would traditional CT forces play in this? How would they hand-over? What legal authority would they have?
  • Let’s not forget how integral military forces are to the prestige of Gulf (if not most) countries and particularly to the leaders. Deploying such mercenary forces would be a monumental slap in the face for any and all Emirati forces. It clearly and brazenly states – to the world – that every last one of them is rubbish at their job; that they cannot do what they are paid and trained to do: defend their country. I think that the shock-waves of shame would reverberate around the Emirates.

Overall, then, IMHO (as the kids say), this idea…needs some thought.

Update: I’ve just updated all the typos in this article – apologies!


1. CKCH - 16, May 2011

Good post. Wish I had more to say. Oh, I do! I agree with your points. That’s all.

2. Ahmed - 16, May 2011

To call them paid killers is a bit of a stretch, wouldn’t you agree? They are mercenaries, but they have military and non-military roles. There is no word to properly describe their mission; even calling them a Praetorian Guard is demeaning.
I disagree with the notion that these people were hired to quell protests chiefly. The contract was signed well before any events started regarding regime change in the region. I do however agree that it is a poorly thought plan (as you have already described).
I believe that these people are being hired in advance of developments of the nuclear power plant. The UAE has a department the Critical National Infrastructure Agency (or something like that) that has ordered quite a few patrol boats to protect oil and gas infrastructure and nuclear facilities. With all respect to security guards from the subcontinent, this task is a bit too much to ask of them.
Because of the above described situation, I would suggest that while the word mercenary fits into the notion of guns for hire quite well, security guards, soldiers and body guards are all technically mercenaries for one person or group (in professional armies, not conscripted ones). Erik Prince is basically setting up a very sophisticated apparatus for Abu Dhabi to use for security purposes. I doubt they will ever be a military force, besides a battalion sized unit hardly makes a difference unless they are all ex-special forces members forming an elite unit capable of taking Abu Musa back. (Despite media claims, most PMC employees are not ex-special ops, quite a few are, but not most)
I think the most important thing being missed here is the price tag, a whopping 570 million dollars (for 2010-2105). Money well spent……

3. Paul - 16, May 2011

Did you see the Christopher Davidson article ‘the Making of a Police State’ in Foreign Policy last month? http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/14/the_making_of_a_police_state

It seems that this merc army is an extension of the general direction of the country. I grew up in the UAE and I can’t tell you how disheartening these turn of events are. I’m not naive, I know the UAE has never been the progressive liberal state that it projects abroad in it’s ads, but I did use to expect better from the UAE. I did expect them to be the quickest of the Gulf monarchies to learn from the Arab Spring. Their reactionary response has been most disappointing.

thegulfblog.com - 16, May 2011

In the case of the South African fellas, I think that guns for hire or hired killers is not too wide of the mark.

Otherwise, you make some good points. I agree wholeheartedly that Gulf States need hundreds of military advisers to train their troops. Yet this Blackwater operation appears to be different, or at least that’s how it’s being portrayed by the NYT (though it is in their journalistic interest to do so, I suppose)…as if these guys are not there to train anyone but to be the people themselves that do the shooting. That is surely different. Small as the Emirati forces are, I am sure that they do not have to rely of rent-a-guards from SE Asia to patrol their waters. The military is – thus far – a prestigious place of employment in the Gulf with good pay, good perks and respect. Of course, across swathes of it there is a corrosive attitude which, I suppose, is the genesis of plans like the Blackwater one.

Interesting also to note that the powers that be really do realise just how crap their military forces are; that they clearly cannot be relied on. At least – you might say – they are doing something about it…note that they dare not tackle the intrinsic issue, though.

thegulfblog.com - 16, May 2011

Yup. I always read what Chris writes.

Sad it is indeed but, as Chris would say, not remotely surprising.

4. Faith - 30, June 2011

I recently found this blog. It feels very much like the real deal. This guy is into the mercenary trade, he comments about places, names, numbers, motives, and even confesses the “he’s in the waiting list for the job”! It’s the first time I read this kind of first-person testemony. Most shockingly, he’s writing about things happening NOW, not something third hand…
here’s the link:


5. Mercenary blog | Trusteesalesol - 20, August 2011

[…] The UAE’s mercenary army? « The Gulf blogMay 16, 2011 … I recently found this blog. It feels very much like the real deal. This guy is into the mercenary trade, he comments about places, names, … […]

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