As the Yemeni civil war rages on, causing the deaths of thousands of civilians, the regional powers further enrich themselves at Yemen's expense. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invaded the island with a full military presence and raised their flag atop most military and government structures. To avoid the language of war, they claim that Yemen granted them a 99-year lease, though the UAE has shown no paperwork and Yemen has denied the lease. Previously, the UAE had supported the Yemeni government. Reports by J Post and the Washington Post provided many of the details used in this article.


Socotra is an island off the coast of Yemen that was a part of the domain of the empowered sultanate in mainland Yemen under British colonial rule. When Yemen gained freedom in 1967, they retained control of the island, giving them a powerful position in the Gulf of Aden, a main trading route for the Middle East. The island was relatively underdeveloped compared to the rest of the Middle East, but so was mainland Yemen. Iran, a foe of Saudi Arabia and other nearby Sunni states, began funding projects on the island, such as the Socotra Airport strip in 2003. In response, in 2008 Saudi businessmen visited the island looking for counter investment opportunities. Residential communities, hospitals, and other vital non-trade infrastructure were built by Sunni investors, increasing their soft power significantly.

When the Yemeni civil war broke out the island was unaffected. There are no Huthi rebels on the island and little to no fighting has occurred. In 2017, the governor of the island took his chance to align the island with the major regional powers and back their new government in Yemen, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), lending them political credibility.

Despite his cooperation, the UAE seems to have invaded the island under false pretenses.


The UAE has moved 300 troops, armored vehicles, and logistical support, including communications and flight equipment, onto the island under false pretenses. They claim they were granted a 99-year lease, though there is no evidence of negotiations or a finalized deal.

Because the governor is under the political rule of the STC, the STC has the final say in any land-leases and has denied authorizing one. The UAE is a major backer of the STC and legally procuring a lease might be easier than this, but the STC was taken by surprise, meaning it's possible that the UAE's intentions are to operate outside the law.

The UAE has also been conducting a mass public image campaign on the island since the start of the conflict. Throughout the war, the UAE has guaranteed food security to the island, while the UAE's partner on the mainland, Saudi Arabia, purposefully starved civilian populations. In addition to taking over the major infrastructure of the island, the UAE has been flying civilians to the UAE for medical treatments and providing education to the children in the absence of a Yemeni central government. The plan is malicious, taking advantage of a civil war the UAE is fueling in an attempt to annex sovereign, wealth-generating land from an impoverished nation.