Iran-Backed Iraqi Group Attacks Abu Dhabi with UAVs in Support of Yemen’s Houthis

Map of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.

Map of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.

“… the UAE has become vulnerable to attacks from more than one direction…”

A little-known group calling itself the “True Promise Brigades” claimed a 2 February attack on Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), involving multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  The group’s only other known prior activity was an early 2021 UAV strike on the Yamama Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  The Abu Dhabi attack caused no known material damage.  It came on the heels of a two-week span that saw Yemen’s Houthi-controlled military forces launch three separate missile and UAV attacks targeting Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two main cities in the UAE.  The timing of the True Promises Brigades’ attack implied a potential link between them and the Houthis, reinforced by supportive tweets from the Houthi-led forces’ influential military spokesman, such as the first accompanying tweet, in which the spokesman thanked the group.  On social media, the True Promise Brigades eschew national identification and call themselves “sons of the Arabian Peninsula.”  The second and third accompanying passages from pro-Iran outlets hint that the group operates from the Iraqi desert, is associated with Iran-backed Iraqi militias, and is under the command of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ international wing, the Quds Force.  The article from the pro-Iran Lebanese influential daily al-Akhbar argues that the Abu Dhabi attack is directly tied to Iraqi politics.  Specifically, the article’s author sees it as a response to perceived Emirati meddling in Iraqi politics and its support for factions opposed to Iranian influence in Iraq.  The article from the pro-Iran Lebanese media channel al-Mayadeen, meanwhile, places the attack in the context of Yemen and sees it as a response to coalition escalation in Yemen.  The attack’s key message, according to the article, is that Iranian allies are capable of linking the Yemeni and Iraqi arenas and conducting semi-coordinated actions targeting Saudi Arabia and the UAE from both directions.


Yahya Sare’e (Houthi-controlled military spokesman), Twitter, 3 February 2022.

We send our congratulations on the jihadist operation carried out by the True Promise Brigades-Sons of the Arabian Peninsula against the Emirati enemy yesterday, Wednesday. We thank them for this honorable, responsible and solidary stance with our dear people against the client Emirati enemy.


“المأزق الإماراتيّ يتعمّق: جبهة جديدة… من العراق

(The Emirati Impasse Deepens: A New Front… from Iraq),” al-Akhbar (pro-Iran influential Lebanese daily), 4 February 2022.

Whatever the group’s identity, the event itself confirms that the UAE has become vulnerable to attacks from more than one direction. This creates greater risks for Emirati security, against the background of its aggression in Yemen and its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Iraq. Washington seems to have handed over the file of the new ruling arrangement to the UAE following the October 10 elections, in which Muqtada al-Sadr, Massoud Barzani and Muhammad al-Halbousi achieved the largest victory, all of whom are allies or friends of Abu Dhabi. The latter has also moved closer to Turkey, allowing for arrangements to be made resulting in the unification of the al-Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar blocs, and the re-election of al-Halbousi, who is considered the UAE’s man in Iraq, as Speaker of the House of Representatives. This in turn opened the way for the installation of a “majority coalition” that excluded Iran’s allies, which is a great risk for Iraqi security and for which the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, bears responsibility…


“دخول “ألوية الوعد الحق” العراقيّة على خطِّ حرب اليمن.. اشتباك أو تشبيك؟

(Iraq’s ‘True Promises Brigades’’ Entry into the Yemen War… Clashes or Linking),” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media channel), 8 February 2022.

This Iraqi group is very interested in the Yemen war, and it is almost specialized in it. In addition, it seems that it is interested in standing up to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular… It is very likely that the strike on Abu Dhabi carried a political message: “Don’t forget that the arenas can be linked when the time comes.” Let us note that the strike came after a crazy escalation carried out by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and after American supplies to Abu Dhabi, including warplanes, and the dispatch of the American destroyer “USS Cole” to the Gulf to support the UAE navy, and talk of a possible ground attack from the Yemeni coast… These intensive messages, whether military or political, come in the context of a clear linking of the arenas, especially since leaders in Ansar Allah wrote on their Twitter accounts that the confrontation would not be with Sanaa alone in the event of any major US invasion of Yemen.

Image Information:

Image:  Map of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.
Source: Abuk Sabuk via Wikimedia Commons
Attribution: Public Domain