Country: United Arab Emirates
Religious Affiliations: Sunni (80%), Shiite (16%), other (4%)
Ethnic Groups: Emirati (Arab) 19%, other (81%)
Remarks: Previously the Trucial States, the United Arab Emirates is composed of seven individual federated emirates (princedoms) ranging in cultural character from liberal (Dubai) to conservative (Sharjah). Formerly administered by the United Kingdom, the Emirates maintain close ties with the West.
Compared with neighboring states, the Emirates host an abnormally large proportion of Iranian expatriates. Iran likely perceives itself to have a stake there as a result. The most prominent territorial dispute between the Emirates and Iran regards the islands of Abu Musa (Emirati territory, but Iran is allowed a military installation there) and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs (administered by Iran, but claimed by the Emirates).[E1][E2][E3]
In January 2011, an Emirati spy ring was uncovered in Oman. While the Emirates and Oman enjoy friendly relations, the Emirati government may have been attempting to gather information about Oman's friendly ties with Iran, or to seek answers about the issue of Omani succession.[E4]
As with other GCC nations, Emirati citizens are few in number and politically disengaged, making the task of fielding an effective indigenous military force difficult. Emirati troops are the only Arab forces to have conducted operations in Afghanistan.[E5] In May 2011, the New York Times reported that former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince had been hired to assemble and train a Colombian mercenary army in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.[E6] The UAE and Qatar recently requested $7.6 billion in Western missile defense support, indicating Emirati concern over Iranian WMD programs.[E7][E8][E9]
In late 2012, Emirati security forces detained a number of individuals with ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and prosecuted them on charges of plotting terrorist attacks.[E10][E11][E12][E13][E14][E15] The probe included the investigation of Kuwaitis who were suspected of financing the operation.[E16][E17][E18][E19] The Muslim Brotherhood has long had a quietly tempestuous presence in the Emirates.[E20] This development will likely strain ties between the UAE, its allies, Egypt, and an increasingly emboldened Muslim Brotherhood.
[E1] Al Arabiya: Iran brushes off UAE call for talks on Gulf islands
[E2] Wikimapia: Abu Musa
[E3] Wikimapia: Greater and Lesser Tunb Islands
[E4] BBC: Oman uncovers 'spy network' but UAE denies any links
[E5] BBC: Muslim troops help win Afghan minds
[E6] New York Times: Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
[E7] Al Arabiya: Qatar, UAE request $7.6 billion in missile defense: U.S.
[E8] Al Jazeera: Qatar and UAE look to bolster defence systems
[E9] AFP: Qatar, UAE request $7.6 bn in missile defense: US
[E10] Al Arabiya: Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cell detained in UAE: report
[E11] Al Jazeera: UAE busts cell 'linked to Egypt Brotherhood'
[E12] Al Arabiya: UAE breaks up ‘terrorist cell’ plotting attacks
[E13] Al Jazeera: UAE reports arrest of cell 'plotting attacks'
[E14] CNN: UAE arrests suspected terror cell
[E15] BBC: UAE arrests 'terror cell' members
[E16] Kuwait Times: Kuwaitis Bankrolled Brotherhood in UAE – PM reveals detained Islamists financed from Kuwait
[E17] Arab Times: Kuwaitis financed Brotherhood members held in UAE
[E18] Arab Times: Security identifies Kuwaitis tied to UAE Brothers cell
[E19] Arab Times: Kuwaitis named in UAE Brotherhood probe
[E20] Foreign Policy: The Brothers and the Gulf